CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Shades of opening night flashed in The 305 on Friday night as Jaylin Sellers posted his second consecutive contest with 20 or more points in as many games as a Knight. Despite repeated attempts and runs at a 14-point halftime deficit, the UCF men’s basketball team was defeated by No. 13 Miami 88-72 on Friday night in front of nearly 8,000 fans at the Watsco Center.
“It was a tough environment, and for us, we have to learn from this experience,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “With 10 new guys, going into this environment for the first time together, there are a lot of things we have to learn and grow from. I think this is going to help us as we move forward through the season. There are a lot of things we can show them and teach them as we move forward, and the only way you can figure that out is to be in a game like this against a team that was in the Final Four last year. I think it was good for us to have this game on the schedule and I think we’ll be better from it as we move forward.”
The Knights and Hurricanes went back and forth early, essentially trading baskets over the first six minutes of the contest. An Ibrahima Diallo leaning shot put the Knights within three at 13-10 with 14:06 remaining in the first.
For the next six and a half minutes, Miami pieced together a 17-6 run to pull in front 30-16. An efficient 58% mark from the field with seven minutes to play in the first, including a five-for-nine mark from three-point land helped the Hurricanes keep pressure on the Knights, who shot 38% including six misses in six attempts from three in that time.
After the first 20 minutes of action, the Hurricanes had built a 14-point lead and were in front of the Knights 41-27. Three-point shooting was the story of the first, with Miami making 7-of-15 triples for a 46.7% clip while UCF shot 2-of-10 from beyond the arc. UCF’s Sellers was on double-double watch at half, scoring seven points and grabbing seven rebounds, topping the six boards he had on Monday in the season opener.
Sellers was the first on the board out of halftime for either team, dropping in a layup to pull UCF back within a dozen. Miami scored 11 of the next 14 points to jump ahead 52-34 with 14:37 to play. The Knights also found themselves in foul trouble, committing seven second-half fouls in less than six minutes.
The Black and Gold put together a run of their own over the next 6:25, getting seven of those points back with a 19-12 run, trimming the deficit to eight at 64-56 with eight minutes to go. The streak saw Sellers earn a pair of tough and-ones, contributing six points to the run. A host of other Knights made up the other 13 points, with Darius Johnson and Thierno Sylla contributing a three-pointer each while Tyler Hendricks and Shemarri Allen tallied two points apiece.
The Knights did not go away and pulled back within six on a DeMarr Langford Jr. jumper to make it 68-62 with 6:11 to go.
UCF continued to be pesky but saw Miami string together seven consecutive points to go back up 13. The Knights made two of the next three baskets plus a free-throw to pull back within single digits at 77-68 with 2:37 to play. It was nearly all Hurricanes the rest of the way, ballooning the lead to 20 with 11 straight points. UCF knocked in the final four points of the game, but ultimately fell 88-72.
Sellers finished the game with 22 points and 11 rebounds, making him the first Knight to achieve a double-double this season. It’s just the third double-double of the junior’s career, who is having an eerily similar first two games compared to UCF’s 2023 NBA lottery pick, Taylor Hendricks. Sellers had 23 points in Monday’s season opener while Hendricks had 23 in the 2022-23 opener. The following game, Hendricks earned a 16-point, 12-rebound double-double against Florida State, while Sellers also cashed in a double-double in his second game as a Knight.
“We’re counting on [Jaylin] to do that,” said Coach Dawkins. “He’s a guy we brought in here to be one of our scorers and he’s living up to that thus far. He’s finding ways to score even though he hasn’t shot the ball like he’s capable of shooting it.”
Johnson and Nils Machowski tallied 13 points each while Diallo was close to double-digits, scoring nine points. Johnson also tallied his 200th career assist in the contest.
The Knights committed 18 turnovers, but also turned Miami over 18 times. The Hurricanes made the most of their extra opportunities, outscoring UCF in points off turnovers 23-10. Miami had a massive advantage in fast break points, outscoring the Knights 29-2. Miami attempted 30 free throws on the evening, making 26.
UCF looks to bounce back in its next game as they host Cal State Fullerton at 7 p.m. on Thursday inside Addition Financial Arena. It will be a brief single game homestand before the Knights head north for the Jacksonville Classic hosted in St. Augustine, Florida.
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