Men's Hoops Begins Road Swing at Texas Wednesday

by Ken Landis
UCF Notes Texas Notes Big 12 Conference Notes

ORLANDO – The UCF men’s basketball is set to embark on a two-game road swing through the state of Texas, visiting the Longhorns on Wednesday and eventually traveling onto Houston to face the No. 5 Cougars on Saturday. The Knights tipoff against Texas at 8 p.m. on Wednesday evening from the Moody Center.

The Black and Gold had one of the more memorable weeks in program history, hosting back-to-back ranked teams, with one game resulting in moments many UCF players, coaches and fans alike will remember for a long time. The Knights beat No. 3 Kansas on Wednesday 65-60 after erasing a 16-point deficit, earning the program’s highest-ranked win, topping the previous-highest ranked victory over No. 4 UConn in 2011. Just days later, the Knights nearly earned two straight wins over ranked foes but were denied by No. 18/17 BYU late after almost erasing another double-digit deficit. UCF played in front of a sell-out crowd at Addition Financial Arena for just the second time in the building’s history when it faced Kansas; the following game saw 9,137 come out to Saturday’s contest against BYU. The pair of 9,000+ fan showings created a March Madness-like feel throughout the full 40 minutes each night.

Addition Financial Arena Panorama

UCF proved it belongs in the Big 12 Conference, backing up what head coach Johnny Dawkins has said since the team entered league play. The Knights’ defense has shown up in all three games, and most notably, held BYU 24 points below its season average in Saturday’s game. UCF’s defense has been ranked top-25 nationally in multiple defensive categories for consecutive weeks, most notably sitting 14th in the nation in turnovers forced per game and 13th in blocks per game, averaging 16.53 and 5.7, respectively.

Following the loss to Kansas State, Coach Dawkins shook up the lineup, opting to toss C.J. Walker and Ibrahima Diallo into the starting five. The move has held opponents to 61.5 points per game, which is even lower than the 64.7 that UCFs defense averages this season, a mark that is ranked 34th in the nation. On the offensive side of the ball, Diallo has averaged a double-double, averaging 12.0 points and 12.0 rebounds including 5.0 offensive boards per game. He had 11 points and 19 rebounds against BYU, his second double-double of the year and fifth of his career. Walker has averaged 8.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game during his two starts. Diallo's turnaround jumpshot (pictured below) untied the game against Kansas for the final time, taking a 59-57 lead with 2:58 to go in the contest.


Ibrahima Diallo | Photo by: Conor Kvatek

Max Abmas is Texas’ leading scorer, averaging 18.0 points per game and just earned the Big 12 Conference’s Newcomer of the Week award. Dylan Disu, Tyrese Hunter, Dillon Mitchell and Kadin Shedrick also all average double digits on the year, racking up 15.1, 12.4, 11.1 and 10.0 points per game. The Longhorns started their Big 12 schedule with an 11-point loss to Texas Tech, followed by a one-point win on the road at Cincinnati. Texas’ last time out resulted in a three-point loss at the hands of West Virginia in Morgantown.

The Longhorns score at a high rate, sinking 48.1% of the team’s shots from the field, a mark that is ranked 36th in the nation. They can also score from beyond the arc, hitting on 36.8% of their three-point attempts, ranking them 50th in the country in that category. Just like the Knights, Texas has some great shot blockers, rejecting 5.3 shots per game, a clip that ranks 19th in the nation.

Wednesday’s contest is the first meeting of the two programs. They are ships passing in the night, as Texas departs for the SEC next season just as the Knights arrived to the Big 12. The program’s two head coaches met while at former institutions, as Coach Dawkins led Stanford to a 75-59 win over a Rodney Terry led Fresno State squad back on Nov. 14, 2011. It was Terry’s first season as head coach of the Bulldogs while Dawkins was in fourth season at the helm of the Cardinal.