‘Nauts Launch Their Way Past Tulsa

Stats (PDF)

ORLANDO—UCF's field-goal shooting Saturday night did not quite come from the heavens. It just seemed that way.
The Citronauts' potent long-distance barrage fit perfectly with the evening's space theme as home-standing UCF overwhelmed Tulsa 96-52 Saturday night in conference action at Addition Financial Arena.
They did it with an all-time single-game UCF record 17 three-point field goals (the old mark was 16 in the Jan. 11 double overtime win over Memphis) and a season-high field-goal percentage effort (.552).
UCF wore special white uniforms trimmed in Citronaut blue with the 'Nauts script logo. The space game promotion—a second for the basketball program--mirrored the concept made popular during recent UCF football seasons.
"Thought our guys played really, really well at both ends of the floor—probably our most complete game," said UCF coach Johnny Dawkins. "They connected well all night. I saw a lot of guys confident in their shot.
"We talked about starting well after the way we finished Wednesday night (a road win at Wichita State). We played to our strengths tonight and we just need to build on this."
UCF's Ithiel Horton paced both teams with 20 points. Freshman Taylor Hendricks notched 18, and Darius Johnson added 13 to go along with 10 assists for a double-double.
The 'Nauts won consecutive games for the first time since claiming three straight victories Jan. 4, 8 and 11.
"Tonight was great," said Johnson "We had 28 assists and only three turnovers. We have a lot of shooters, and we just kept shooting. The Wichita State win got us back on our feet."
"This just adds to our confidence," said Horton.
Tulsa made four consecutive field goals early to fuel an 11-0 run to a 16-8 lead as UCF missed eight of 11 shots to open the contest. The 'Nauts then hit four buckets in a row for an 8-0 run to grab a 22-20 advantage. Eight straight points ended a 16-2 UCF spree that pushed the lead to 30-22.
Eight of UCF's first 10 field goals were three-pointers (by five different players) and the 'Nauts finished with 11 long-distance bombs in the first half.
UCF led by 20 at intermission and its 51 first-half points marked a season high--42 vs. Memphis had been the standard. The 'Nauts finished the half on an 11-1 run. Hendricks led all scorers with a dozen points in the opening 20 minutes as the home team turned the ball over only once in that period (seven by Tulsa).
UCF outscored the visitors 12-2 to start the second half. Another late 16-2 run by the 'Nauts (including 10 straight) made it 91-49 for Dawkins' crew. UCF had only three turnovers (five less than its previous low this season) compared to 16 by the Golden Hurricane. The 'Nauts ended with 28 assists to nine by the visitors and held the opposition to .365 field-goal shooting. Tulsa connected on only seven of 25 attempts after halftime. The final margin marked UCFs largest lead of the night.
Tulsa (5-19 overall, 1-12 AAC) has lost six in a row and 13 of its last 14. The Golden Hurricane has won only a single game since Dec. 16.
Tulsa's Sam Griffin, a 15.4-point scorer coming in, had only 10. Bryant Selebangue led the Golden Hurricane with 11 points (hitting five of his six shots) and a game-high 10 rebounds.
UCF hasn't lost to Tulsa in Orlando since 2016, boasting six straight home series wins.

The 'Nauts/Knights (15-9, 6-6) next play at Memphis Thursday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+).
UCF is 10-4 this season at Addition Financial Arena —with home dates remaining versus  Cincinnati (Feb. 19), South Florida (Feb. 22) and East Carolina (Mar. 5).

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