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Men's Basketball Bounces Back with 72-57 Win over Lipscomb

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – Junior transfer Jaylin Sellers wasted no time establishing himself as the Knights’ go-to scoring threat on the offensive end through the UCF men’s basketball team’s first six games, finishing as the squad’s top scorer in four.

As the season enters its second full month in December, head coach Johnny Dawkins’ staff has prioritized aiding the guard’s supporting cast in continuing to grow and realize their offensive potential to further bolster the Knights’ production.

“Jaylin’s done a terrific job thus far in the preseason,” Dawkins said prior to Saturday’s game. “As other guys start to get more comfortable in their roles, I think you’ll see them start to emerge and get more contributions offensively.”

Returning veteran Darius Johnson took up the mantle from Sellers as UCF’s leading scorer Saturday evening, dropping a team-best 19 points in his most efficient game of the young season to lead the Knights to a 72-57 bounce-back win over the Lipscomb Bisons at Addition Financial Arena.

A game-opening 3-point shot just under two minutes into the first half set the tone for Johnson, who finished in double figures for the sixth time in his first seven games on the strength of 7-of-12 shooting.

His effort represented the first game of the new slate that saw Johnson shoot over 50 percent from the field, and the junior added a 50 percent success rate from beyond the arc (3-for-6) and a spotless showing from the free throw line (2-for-2).

“It was good to see, we want to have depth. We need guys to be able to pick up the slack when guys aren’t having their A-game night,” Dawkins said. “[Marchelus Avery] gave us a huge lift in that role, guys off the bench, Tyler [Hendricks] and Comeh [Emuobor] gave us a lift in that role as well. When you have guys capable of chipping in, that takes pressure off a guy like Jaylin, so he doesn’t feel like he has to do that every night.”

Johnson’s triple gave UCF (5-2) its first lead of the game before the Knights’ rattled off a 21-5 run spanning just over seven minutes of gametime that gave the Black and Gold a 24-11 advantage with 8:22 remaining in the first half.

Seven different Knights factored into the team’s lengthy run, led by Johnson’s five. Shemarri Allen added four more, followed by three from both Avery and Sellers, who recorded his seventh straight game in double figures to begin the season.

With his seven double-digit point contests, Sellers continued his chase of Aubrey Dawkins’ 18 such games to begin his lone season in a Knights uniform, accomplishing the feat in the 2018-19 season.

After a pair of quick 3-point buckets narrowed the Bisons’ (6-4) deficit to 24-17, Sellers and Johnson combined for nine points, accompanied by a pair of Avery triples, to give UCF a 39-23 halftime lead.

“He had a really good floor game. You want to see a player who’s active, I thought he defended real well,” Dawkins said of Johnson. “Offensively he played with real good pace, pushing the basketball the way we want to play. On both ends I felt his presence on the floor.”

UCF battled throughout a second half that saw Lipscomb outscore the Knights by one, 34-33, but a trio of 3-pointers from Emuobor, Hendricks and Johnson, coupled with an overall 19-10 spurt down the stretch aided the Black and Gold in taking command of the affairs with a 67-50 lead and 5:39 to play.

Fifth year transfer Ibrahima Diallo continued his torrid defensive pace with the 100th block of his collegiate career after he stymied Bisons guard Will Pruitt with 15:20 remaining in the second half. The Saly, Senegal, native entered the evening as the Big 12’s leader in total blocks (17) and blocks per game (2.8), and has recorded at least one in each of his first seven games.

In support of Johnson on the offensive end, Sellers finished with 16 points and Avery added 12 of his own en route to securing his second game in his first five in double figures.

“I thought we really bought in on defense,” Johnson said of the team’s win. “We’ve been preaching that all week, taking pride in defense, and we eliminated the three ball. They’re a great 3-point shooting team. We did a better job, but we still have work to do.”


The Knights have a quick turnaround for their next tilt, a Wednesday evening contest against the Jacksonville Dolphins. Tipoff from Addition Financial Arena is set for 7 p.m.


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