Sellers Nets 1,000th Career Point in Men's Hoops 66-59 loss at Texas Tech

by Ken Landis

LUBBOCK, Texas – The UCF men’s basketball team was topped by No. 23/23 Texas Tech 66-59 on Saturday afternoon in the first leg of a two-game road trip. Knights’ junior guard Jaylin Sellers tallied 14 points on the evening, allowing him to reach and surpass the 1,000-career point mark.

“I thought our guys fought hard,” said head coach Johnny Dawkins. “We were right there in position down the stretch of the game, and they made the plays they had to make in the last four minutes of the game. I thought we got sped up a little bit and got rattled on a couple of possessions where we just turned the ball over trying to go to fast. A couple shots down the stretch weren’t shots that we really wanted, and we’ve got to get stops down the stretch.”

The teams alternated baskets early, resulting in a 10-9 start in favor of the home team through the first 6:29 of the game. Texas Tech pieced together a quick 6-0 run to go up seven, but saw UCF chop it back to three at 16-13 with a dunk from Thierno Sylla and converted and-one from Marchelus Avery. The two sides remained close until halfway through the first half as the Red Raiders strung together a 9-2 run, leading 25-15.

The Knights scratched the 10-point deficit back to six with a pair of buckets from C.J. Walker, but saw it balloon back to double digits with 3:46 left in the first frame. Points from Darius Johnson and Walker trimmed the Red Raider lead to four. Texas Tech tallied the last bucket of the first, sending the Knights into the halftime locker room trialing 31-25.

UCF converted on four of its five chances from the free throw line in the first, playing a big role in the 6-0 run to bring the margin on the scoreboard back to four with 2:22 to go. However, the Knights were just 1-for-14 from beyond the three-point line. Texas Tech collected nine offensive rebounds resulting in eight second chance points. Twelve of UCF’s 25 points in the first came from the bench, with Walker netting six, Avery cashing in for four and Sylla adding a pair.

The Knights defense held Texas Tech’s leading scorer, Pop Isaacs, to just two points in the first. Both were earned at the free throw line as he went scoreless in five shots from the floor.

UCF trimmed the lead a few times throughout the early stages of the first, bringing it back to just a three-point deficit on three occasions through the first seven minutes of the second.

The Knights got themselves in position to erase the Texas Tech lead right around the halfway point of the second stanza. Walker slammed one home on an alley-oop to make it 47-45 with 10:10 remaining. After a basket by Isaacs at the other end, Sellers answered with a triple, pulling UCF back within one at 49-48 with 8:20 on the clock.

Texas Tech went back to work, tossing in two layups and hitting a three-pointer to extend their cushion back to eight. The Knights showed no quit, as the very next possession down the floor, Sellers splashed another triple, followed by a two-point, second chance jumper from Johnson to put UCF right back in the race, trailing again by two with 4:40 to go.

A quick response by Texas Tech to go up four was answered again by UCF as Walker hit a jumper to trim it back to two. Walker earned a trip to the charity stripe with 2:07 left in the ballgame, hitting one of two free throws to bring the Knights back within one at 58-57. The Red Raiders hit a jumper at the other end of the floor following the free throw. It was all Texas Tech from there, as a turnover, foul and blocked shot all but sealed the deal. The home side hit six free throws to balloon the lead back to nine before Sellers laid one in with five second level, arriving at the final score of 66-59.

Sellers now sits with 1,002 points, reaching the milestone just 84 games into this collegiate career. He tallied 207 points in his freshman season at Ball State, earning a spot on the MAC All-Freshman team. A year later, he shot 45.0% from three-point range and piled 420 points in the basket with a nod to the All-MAC Third Team. This season, Sellers has scored from all over the hardwood, averaging 17.0 points per game, tallying 375 overall. Sellers is a lifetime 47.6% scorer from the floor and makes 39.1% of his looks from three-point land. He has shot a career-best 86.0% so far from the free throw line this season, topping his previous best of 75.7% last season. Sellers clanked in four three-pointers on Saturday, tying his season-high.

Walker, who returned to the floor for the first time since the West Virginia game, was a heavy contributor off the bench, scoring a season-high 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the floor and pulling down eight rebounds. Johnson joined Sellers and Walker in double-digit scoring, tallying 14 points.

While the UCF defense didn’t put up the normal block, steal or turnover numbers it normally does, it was still very much a factor in the contest. Texas Tech’s 66 points were the third lowest in its Big 12 schedule thus far and fourth lowest on the season. The Red Raiders averaged 76.8 points per game entering the evening.

Isaacs, who came into the contest averaging 19.4 points per game in Big 12 Conference play, was held to just seven points by the Knights defense, shooting 2-for-13 from the floor. UCF forced him to turn the ball over three times and had him as one of two Texas Tech players to be in the negatives in +/- rating. However, a host of Red Raiders came to aid in Isaacs’ lack of scoring as Darrion Williams pulled in a 13-point, 13-rebound double-double, while Warren Washington did the same, scoring 10 points and reeling in 11 boards, six of them on the offensive glass. Kerwin Walton and Joe Toussaint joined in on the double-digit scoring, posting 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The Knights head to Provo, Utah for their first meeting with No. 21/19 BYU at their home gym. The two matched up in Orlando for the second game in league play this season. The Cougars earned a 63-58 win in the first leg of the home-and-home. BYU is set to be the fourth straight ranked opponents the Knights have faced as the pair reunite on the hardwood Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET.

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