Men's Hoops Looks to Bounce Back Saturday vs. No. 23 Texas Tech

by Ken Landis
UCF Game Notes Texas Tech Game Notes Big 12 Conference Notes

ORLANDO – The UCF men’s basketball team looks to snap its four-game skid on Saturday as it hosts No. 23/23 Texas Tech for a 4 p.m. tip on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

The Knights and Red Raiders went toe-to-toe in their first all-time meeting exactly two weeks prior to this Saturday’s contest. UCF was outrebounded in the contest, which was just one of six occasions to that point. Since then, the Black and Gold have been outrebounded in each game on the four-game slide, going 2-7 overall this season when losing the battle of the boards. UCF was without the services of forward Ibrahima Diallo in the inaugural meeting back on Feb. 10. Despite not having the edge on the glass against Texas Tech, the Knights nearly pulled out the victory, slicing the Red Raider lead to one or two points on multiple occasions late in the contest. The UCF defense stood tall against Texas Tech’s leading scorer, Pop Isaacs, holding a normally near 20 point per game shooter to just seven on the evening.

Texas Tech was ranked No. 23 in both the AP and Coaches Polls the last time the two met, and the said can be said ahead of Saturday’s tilt. The Red Raiders are 4-4 this season while they’ve been ranked and enter the contest with a record of 19-7 and an 8-5 clip in conference play. The Red Raiders were on a three-game losing streak prior to their meeting with the Knights. Since then, Texas Tech has gone 2-1, routing No. 6 Kansas 79-50 in Lubbock, losing at No. 10 Iowa State and returning home to earn a one-point victory over TCU. The Red Raiders are 14-1 at home this season but just 2-5 in true road games.

UCF’s Darius Johnson is coming off a milestone game in which he posted 29 points, a career high. The mark topped his previous best of 25 points which he achieved earlier this season at the Jacksonville Classic against Charlotte and then again at home against Ole Miss just four games later. His numbers last time out against West Virginia also represented career highs in field goals made and attempted, three-point attempted and tied a career-high for three-pointers made.

Not only has Johnson been scoring but he has been leading to his teammates scoring often as well. He averages 3.9 assists per game this season and now sits at 293 for his career. Johnson is two assists away from sole possession of ninth place on UCF’s all-time assists list and nine away from setting a career high.

Johnson’s defensive game has skyrocketed as well as of late, averaging 2.20 steals per game, a mark that ranks 23rd in the nation and third in the Big 12. In league play alone, he averages 2.54 thefts per contest. Three of Johnson’s last four games have seen him snatch three or more steals, including grabbing four in each of the last two contests. He boasts a quartet of four-steal games in league play.

Omar Payne also had a night to remember in the Black and Gold’s most recent contest, swatting aside a career-high six shots, a feat that hadn’t been done at UCF since Tacko Fall did it in Dec. 2018. He propelled the Knights to their second 10-block game this season, tying a campaign high.

Payne and Diallo together have blocked 43 shots in Big 12 play, with Payne leading the way with 23. On the season, Diallo holds the edge with 47 compared to Payne’s 39.


Men's Hoops Weekly Press Conference - February 22, 2024