Men's Hoops Reunites with Cincinnati as Dawkins Seeks 300th Career Win

by Ken Landis
UCF Game Notes Cincinnati Game Notes Big 12 Conference Notes

CINCINNATI – The UCF men’s basketball team is set to reunite with old American Athletic Conference foe Cincinnati, visiting the Bearcats for a 7 p.m. tip on Saturday night from Fifth Third Arena. The two are meeting for the first time as Big 12 Conference-mates while head coach Johnny Dawkins is on the cusp of a career-milestone, entering the weekend with 299 career victories as a head coach at the collegiate level.

The Knights’ defense comes into the contest perhaps as sharp as ever, holding back-to-back Big 12 opponents, No. 3 Houston and West Virginia, to under 60 points. UCF’s offense was humming in tune with the defense against the Mountaineers, as the Black and Gold outpaced West Virginia in fast break points 24-6 and points from turnovers 18-5. UCF totaled seven rejections and 10 steals on the evening, all while holding a lead throughout the entirety of the contest. Ibrahima Diallo and Shemarri Allen played big roles in the victory, as Diallo tallied his third double-double of the season, tallying 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Allen accounted for four of the 10 UCF steals and added five assists, both category-leaders on the night.

“I think our defense is definitely ahead of our offense. And that’s because we’ve spent so much time on our defense. We’ve always felt to win anywhere, whether that’s The American or Big 12, it starts at that end of the floor and then you build out. So we’re building that out now, that’s why I say it’s a marathon and not a sprint. We’re still building out our personnel and what we think we can do offensively, and I think we’ll continue to improve in that area as these weeks continue to move forward.”

Johnny DawkinsUCF Men's Basketball Head Coach

Jaylin Sellers continues to lead the Knights in scoring, averaging 17.1 points per contest, a mark that is ranked fourth in the Big 12. His 18 points on Tuesday night marked the 16th time he has registered double-digit points in UCF’s 18 games. Also landing in double figures was Diallo and Antwann Jones. A season-high 13 points were provided by Jones, his second double-digit performance of the season, as the Knights won by 13 over the Mountaineers.

Eight of the last nine contests between UCF and Cincinnati have been decided by less than 10 points, with the most recent of the meetings coming down to the buzzer. The Bearcats sunk a mid-range floater with less than a second on the clock to beat the Knights in Orlando 73-71 in the most recent tilt between the former American foes. Cincinnati swept the season series last season, but prior to that UCF won four of the last six meetings, including a double overtime thriller in Feb. 2020.

Cincinnati had a tough welcome to the Big 12, facing six straight ranked teams to begin its conference slate. The Bearcats went 2-4 in the process, losing four of their last five. Their two league wins came via a 71-60 win in Provo over No. 12 BYU and an 81-77 victory over No. 19 TCU.

Coach Dawkins will be seeking his 300th career victory on Saturday, a feat that would make him the sixth active head coach in the Big 12 Conference to reach the milestone. He has compiled 143 of his 299 wins thus far at UCF with the second-highest winning percentage in program history through his current eighth season. Dawkins compiled 156 wins at Stanford through eight seasons, winning two NIT titles and reaching the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 while there.