Men's Hoops Hosts No. 23/24 Oklahoma

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

ORLANDO – The UCF men’s basketball team is set for its second-consecutive home matchup against a ranked opponent, hosting No. 23/24 Oklahoma for a 4 p.m. tip on Saturday.

Darius Johnson shone in the Knights’ last outing against No. 18 Baylor, scoring 23 points while tallying 10 assists and seven rebounds. It was his first double-double of the season and third of his career, with all three coming with 10 assists. He led the team in points, rebounds, assists and tied the lead for steals against the Bears, but the Knights fell for the second straight contest, 77-69. Marchelus Avery and Jaylin Sellers also scored double-digit points on the night, scoring 16 and 14, respectively.

The Black and Gold had their best shooting performance of the season on Wednesday, shooting 54.0% from the field, including 51.9% from three. The 14 three-pointers were the second most that UCF had made this season and the highest three-point percentage to this point. Johnson nailed a career-high five three pointers against Baylor while Avery and Sellers hit four each. Antwann Jones, who made his first start as a Knight and first since Nov. 21, 2021, added a triple of his own to bring the UCF total to 14.

It has been a tale of two halves for the Knights thus far in Big 12 play. UCF began league play by trailing at halftime and by double-digits in each of the first five games. In the Knights’ first four conference contests, they shot 46.4% in the second half compared to 32.0% in the first half. The script has since flipped as UCF has led at halftime and built a double-digit lead in the last three conference contests, now shooting 48.2% in the first half against 35.4% in the second half.

The Knights look to bring their season-high scoring performance into Saturday’s contest, as they match up the Sooners who sink 47.8% of their shots, a mark that is 41st in the country. UCF’s defense has been up to the task so far in the Big 12, holding six of eight league opponents to below their season scoring average. The Knights hold opponents to an average of 65.1 points per game this season, a mark that ranks 35th in the nation. UCF’s defense is ranked seventh in the nation by ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI) and 11th by KenPom.

Saturday’s game is the second in a stretch of four straight against ranked opponents. The next two on UCF’s slate are both on the road, visiting No. 15/15 Texas Tech and a rematch with No. 22/21 BYU. Seven of the Black and Gold’s 10 remaining opponents are currently ranked in the top 25, resulting in the ninth-toughest remaining schedule, according to ESPN’s BPI.

The Knights are looking to make history on Saturday, as a ranked win would mean UCF has a pair of wins over top-25 competition this season. That has only happened once in program history, the only other time coming back in 2018-19. The Black and Gold have plenty of chances remaining in this next four-game stretch to set the team record for most ranked wins in a single season.

Head coach Johnny Dawkins, who has six of UCF’s eight ranked wins in program history, is on the hunt for career victory number 300. In his 16th season as a head coach and eighth with the Knights, he is looking to become the sixth active Big 12 coach to reach the milestone.

Sellers is seeking some history of his own and is in range of reaching 1,000 points. Sitting at 968 points, the junior needs just 32 points to reach the milestone. He scored 34 points in a game earlier this season against Stetson, setting a career-high. He currently averages 17.1 points per game, a mark that is fifth in the Big 12.

Saturday’s matchup is just the third meeting between the Knights and Sooners. The two previous meetings were decided by a total of four points with both decisions going the way of Oklahoma. The two sides met first in 2019 in Norman, followed with a return trip to Orlando in 2021.