Men's Hoops Erases 16-point Deficit to Top Texas 77-71

by Ken Landis

AUSTIN, Texas – They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the comeback from the UCF men’s basketball team proved to be massive, erasing a deficit as many as 16 and finishing the game on a 31-12 run over the final 12 minutes to secure the 77-71 victory behind enemy lines.

“It was a hard-fought game against a very good Texas team, I’m just really proud of our guys for our effort because Texas did a great job of building a lead, and our guys just kept fighting and kept believing and made an incredible comeback. Proud of our guys for the fight we showed for 40 minutes that allowed us to have a chance to win. The biggest factor in the final 14 minutes is that we believed that we could still come back. We’ve been in games this season where we’ve been down by that margin and have been able to rally as well. So not only the belief, but having done it before, our guys didn’t panic. I think we understood that you aren’t going to get all those points back in one possession. You’re going to have to keep working and keep chipping away, and that’s what we set our mind to doing.”

Johnny DawkinsUCF Men's Basketball Head Coach

Just four games into its new conference, UCF is already making noise. In the Black and Gold’s two wins, the Knights have knocked off Texas, the league’s tournament champion last season, and Kansas, who were last season’s Big 12 regular season champions.

Multiple Knights shone in the victory, as five members of the team finished the evening in double-digits, the second time that’s happened this season, with the other occurrence being against Bethune-Cookman on Dec. 29. Jaylin Sellers led the way with 24 points on a night that he was absent from the starting lineup, his fifth 20+ point game this season. Shemarri Allen added 17 points, a season-high while Darius Johnson tacked on 11, joined by Omar Payne and C.J. Walker who each ad 10. Walker was a rebound away from a double-double, finishing with nine boards, three of them on the offensive end. Allen added season-high seven assists and added four steals.

The contest started out heavy in Texas’ favor, jumping out to a 15-2 lead in the first five minutes, a bigger deficit than what the Knights encountered at Kansas State at the start of Big 12 play. The advantage hovered right around 13 points for the Longhorns until around 8:30 remaining in the first. UCF began to chip into the lead, using a 13-9 run in four minutes to bring it back to 32-26. Texas finished the half on a 10-6 run, heading to the halftime locker room up 12 at 44-32. Both teams shot the ball well, as the Longhorns sunk 68% of their shots including 5-of-10 from three-point land while UCF shot 48%. The story of the half was turnovers, as the Knights gave it away on 11 possessions to Texas’ five. Little did anyone in the building know that UCF was about to erase its largest halftime deficit of the season in the ensuing half.

The Longhorns built on their lead right out of the half, posting an 11-6 run over the first five minutes. The next five minutes is what sparked the Knights’ rally, as UCF posted an 11-4 run to draw back within six at 59-53. The phrase “Slamlando” best describes the run, as Allen began things with a breakaway dunk and converted on the and-one free throw. Texas answered back with four points of their own, but UCF responded with three quick buckets. Marchelus Avery nailed a three-pointer to cut the lead to 10, followed with an Omar Payne layup and fast break dunk on back-to-back possessions.

After a Texas three-pointer to extend the lead back to nine, UCF started to pile up points in a hurry, going on a 10-0 run in under two minutes to pull in front for the first time in the game at 63-62. Allen accounted for half of the points on the ferocious stretch, connecting on three free throws and added a dunk. C.J. Walker followed with a dunk of his own before Darius Johnson converted from long range with 7:21 to go.

The final seven minutes saw UCF close out Texas with a 14-6 run. Texas led for the last time at 68-67 with 4:29 to go. From there, Allen converted on a layup and jumper as he finished his night with a season-high 17 points. With under a minute to go, Johnson all but sealed the game with a tough bucket for two, getting him to 11 points on the evening, the 14th time he has been in double-digits this season. Sellers added four free throws to put the final nails in the coffin, securing UCF’s first road victory in the Big 12.

The Knights shot 53.1% in the second half compared to just 34.5% for Texas in the final frame. The second half surge led the Knights to their highest field goal percentage in a game this season, finishing with a clip of 50.9%, topping the 50.0% to open the 2023-24 campaign against FIU.

Big 12 block leader Ibrahima Diallo had three rejections in the game, the sixth time he has denied three or more shots in a game. He now averages 2.13 blocks per contest and is the lone player in the league to average over two blocks a game.

The Knights have erased 16-point deficits in each of their two Big 12 conference wins so far as they sit as one of seven 2-2 teams in league play, all just a game away from the top of the standings early on.

The Knights reunite with their old league-mates from their days in the American Athletic Conference as they visit No. 5 Houston on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET.

Follow UCF men’s basketball on X (@UCF_MBB), Instagram (@UCF.MBB) and Facebook (/UCFMensBasketball).

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Postgame Radio Interview - Men's Hoops at Texas