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Men's Hoops Edged by Stetson, 85-82

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – Knights junior transfer Jaylin Sellers enjoyed a career night, but in the end the explosive Hatters’ offense proved too much to overcome for his team’s defense.

The guard scored a career-high 34 points, but a relentless attack from beyond the arc pushed Stetson past the UCF men’s basketball team, 85-82, at Addition Financial Arena Sunday evening.

“Between three-point shooting, coming down the stretch and going 12-for-12 from the free throw line to close the game, they made all the shots they needed to make,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “You’ve got to step up and make plays. We went up by 13 in the first half, and we have to learn how to continue to build on a lead when you’re up like that.”

The duo of Sellers and sophomore forward Thierno Sylla aided in propelling the Knights to an early 21-8 advantage eight and a half minutes into the contest.

The former finished a layup at the rim before the latter drained UCF’s first 3-point try of the evening, ensuring that he has made at least one attempt from beyond the arc in five of his first six games and six total in that span, after finishing with a total of 12 triples a season ago.

Sylla followed two Omar Payne points with two more of his own, and junior guard Darius Johnson added the Knights’ second 3-pointer of the game before Sellers took over. With UCF already leading 12-6, Sellers scored the Knights’ next seven points, including another 3-point bucket that helped in building the Black and Gold’s 13-point advantage with 11:31 remaining in the first half.

Another Sellers triple down the stretch that factored into his team-best 16 first-half points, in addition to four more from Marchelus Avery, gave UCF a 36-30 lead at halftime after the squad overcame a 22-15 Hatters run to end the first 20 minutes.

The Stetson offense had only just found its footing, as the Hatters exploded for nine 3-point field goals in the second half, a period that saw the visitors outscore UCF 55-46 after the Knights yielded 30 first-half points. The visitors’ nine second-half triples factored into a game total of 13 makes from beyond the arc.

Through the first 11 minutes of the second half, the Black and Gold allowed only six field goals, but four Hatters 3-pointers in that span aided Stetson in hanging around as Sellers notched 12 of UCF’s first 18 points of the stanza, including a layup that clinched a career-high performance in points scored with 12:01 to play.

Sellers’ 34 points represented not only a personal career-high, but the most in a single game by a Knight since Brandon Mahan’s 32-point showing on Dec. 19, 2020 against then-No. 15 Florida State in UCF’s 86-74 win over the Seminoles.

The guard has also reached double figures in each of his first six games as a Knight, including four with at least 20 points.

“We need more than just Jaylin,” Dawkins continued. “I thought he was terrific, but we need other guys taking advantage of what they have. Do what you do well and take what the defense gives you. That’s something we have to clean up when we’re watching tape with them is showing them how we want them to execute certain situations.”

After the Hatters regained the lead, 61-60, with 5:40 left, UCF pulled to within one point on five different occasions, but Stetson went a spotless 12-for-12 from the free throw line within the final two minutes to add to its overall 22-for-24 performance from the charity stripe throughout the contest to seal the Knights’ three-point defeat, a loss that snapped a 20-game win streak over their in-state foes.

“The three-point line,” Dawkins said of his disappointment with his team’s defense. “Everything else I’m fine with. We had to foul, and they made all their key free throws down the stretch. But the threes were something we identified we had to take away from them. The one thing we didn’t take away was the three.”


The Knights will look to bounce back Saturday afternoon when the team welcomes Lipscomb to Orlando. Tipoff from Addition Financial Arena is scheduled for 4 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.


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