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Men's Basketball to Host Mountaineers in Tuesday Tilt

by Ryan Ladika
UCF Game Notes West Virginia Game Notes

ORLANDO – Following the conclusion of the UCF men’s basketball team’s two-game road trip through the Lone Star State, the Knights return home for a Tuesday clash with the West Virginia Mountaineers at Addition Financial Arena.

The Black & Gold (11-6, 2-3 Big 12) began their Texas two-step with a 77-71 victory over the Texas Longhorns, representing the first Big 12 Conference road win in program history. Much like the Knights’ prolific upset of No. 3 Kansas Jan. 10, UCF erased a 16-point deficit en route to its six-point win over the Longhorns, an effort that handed Texas just its fifth loss of the campaign and its second on its home floor.

Transfer junior Jaylin Sellers recorded a game-high 24 points in the win, marking his fifth 20-plus-point game of the year and his 15th of his first 16 in double figures. Fifth year forward C.J. Walker also recorded his second 10-point game of the year as he works his way back from a preseason injury, while adding a game-high nine rebounds.

The Knights saw their excellent defensive start to the season continue in their road trip finale against No. 5 Houston, holding the Cougars to just 57 points on 34 percent shooting (20-of-58), their second-lowest point total of the season only to the 53 points they scored against Iowa State Jan. 9.

“It was a good win at Texas, our guys played well in a come-from-behind victory. Guys kept fighting and competing to give us a chance to win at the end. I was proud of their effort,” head coach Johnny Dawkins said. “I give Houston a lot of credit, they played a good game, especially defensively, and we didn’t respond to that. We have to get better in those areas, and we will.”

Following the two-game Texas swing, the Knights rank second in the Big 12 and 15th in the nation in blocks per game (5.5), 35th in the country and sixth in the conference in field goal percentage defense (40 percent), and third in the Big 12 and 32nd in the country in scoring defense (64.6 points per game).

Fifth year transfer forward Ibrahima Diallo also remains the conference’s leading blocker with a total of 41, slotting in as the 34th-best mark in the country, while Sellers represents the fourth highest-scoring player on average in the Big 12 with 17.1 points per game.

“We have to regroup and respond,” Dawkins said of the team’s upcoming tilt with the Mountaineers. “This league is an incredible basketball conference. They’re another terrific basketball team, we have a lot of respect for who they can be as a program, and we have to prepare for them vigorously.”

The Knights will face West Virginia (7-11, 2-3 Big 12) for only the second time in program history, and the first time since the Mountaineers took a Nov. 24, 2017, meeting by an 83-45 final score. The Mountaineers’ season has been headlined, most recently, by a 91-85 win over Kansas and a victory over then-No. 25 Texas Jan. 13. To this point, West Virginia and UCF have both enjoyed wins over the Jayhawks and Longhorns while both also falling to Kansas State and Houston.

Fifth year guard RaeQuan Battle, who leads the team with an average of 19.5 points per game, paced the squad with 23 in the team’s upset of Kansas, marking his fifth 20-point contest and his seventh in double figures this year. Fellow fifth year Jesse Edwards represents one of the team’s leading defensive assets as well, boasting a team-best 17 blocks and 8.7 rebounds per game.

“They have a lot of talent, well-coached,” Dawkins said of West Virginia. “They’re a team that, as we prepare, they’re playing some of their best basketball when it counts the most.”

Tipoff for the Knights’ Tuesday game against the Mountaineers is slated for 7 p.m. from Addition Financial Arena, and will be streamed on ESPN+.


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