Men's Hoops Set to Visit Oklahoma State

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

ORLANDO – The UCF men’s basketball team looks to keep its momentum rolling after its 75-61 win over No. 23 Texas Tech as the Knights visit Oklahoma State for an 8 p.m. tipoff on Wednesday.

The Knights made history this past weekend, earning a victory over their third ranked opponent of the season for the first time in program history. UCF now boasts wins over No. 3/3 Kansas, No. 23/24 Oklahoma and No. 23/23 Texas Tech during the 2023-24 campaign. The only other time the Black and Gold beat multiple ranked foes in a single season was during the 2018-19 season that fueled an NCAA Tournament run. UCF went on the road to beat No. 6 Houston 69-64 on Mar. 2, 2019 when it hosted College Gameday before returning home to beat No. 19 Cincinnati 58-55 less than a week later on Mar. 7, 2019.

Head coach Johnny Dawkins now accounts for eight of UCF’s 10 ranked wins in the program’s history. The Knights have physically won 11 contests against ranked foes, but a Dec. 1, 2010 victory over No. 16 Florida in what is now the Kia Center was vacated due to NCAA sanctions, along with every win during the 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons.

Darius Johnson is in the midst of a career year and is climbing into a few of UCF’s all-time lists in just his junior season. After snatching exactly four steals in each of the last three contests, Johnson now sits eighth all-time in steals at UCF with 144, passing Mike O’Donnell (2005-08) and Cleveland Jackson (1977-79) in Saturday’s contest. Johnson sits ninth on UCF’s career assists list with 298, just five away from jumping into eighth ahead of UCF Hall of Famer Bo Clark. He also sits at No. 8 in career free throw percentage with a 79.9% clip.

Jaylin Sellers and Johnson have made quite the dynamic duo for the Knights this season. They each have a dozen games in which they’ve led UCF in scoring while Sellers has 23 double-digit scoring performances this season while Johnson has 21. Together, Sellers and Johnson have combined for 11-of-12 of UCF’s total 20 or greater point outings this season. The pair combines for 30.0 points per contest in games the Knights are victorious.

UCF is set to face Oklahoma State for the first time on American soil. The only meeting between the two sides came last year in Nassau, Bahamas at the Baha Mar Hoops Bahamas Championship in a ballroom at the Baha Mar. The victory was the first in UCF’s history over a program from the Big 12 Conference. The Cowboys quickly built a lead of 17 in the first half, which the Black and Gold were able to bring down to 11 at the halftime horn. UCF rallied to force overtime in what remained a defensive battle all the way to the end, outscoring Oklahoma State 8-4 in the extra segment to earn the 60-56 triumph. The win over the Cowboys came in the semifinals as the Knights advance to face and eventually top Santa Clara to win the tournament title. C.J. Walker was the only member of the Black and Gold to participate in the victory over Oklahoma State last season.

Saturday’s win over the Red Raiders snapped a four-game losing streak that saw UCF get outrebounded in each contest. The Knights equaled the amount of rebounds Texas Tech collected last time out, gathering 36 apiece. The Black and Gold are 12-5 this season when gathering the same or a greater amount of boards than their foes as opposed to 2-7 when getting outrebounded.

Oklahoma State enters the contest as the bottom rebounding team in the Big 12. UCF ranks fourth in the league in rebounds per game while sitting 48th in the nation and fifth in the league in offensive rebounds. The Knights continue to rank highly in other categories, sitting No. 12 in the country in blocks per game with a 5.4 clip and are 21st in steals per game at 8.9.

Despite ranking in the bottom two in the Big 12 in scoring defense, opponent field goal percentage and rebounding margin, Oklahoma State is starting to make things interesting. The Cowboys started league play with six consecutive losses but have since gone .500 over their last eight games, including winning two of the last three. Oklahoma State hosted BYU on Feb. 17, earning a 93-83 victory. Next up was a road trip to Cincinnati where the Cowboys pulled out an 80-76 win. The last time Oklahoma State took the floor was at home against Oklahoma, a game that went into overtime. Neither team could separate themselves from the other until the very end as the Sooners hit a game-winning three-pointer as the buzzer sounded in the extra frame, dropping the Cowboys 84-82.

Javon Small has led the scoring charge for Oklahoma State, averaging 14.6 points per game while connecting on 37.8% of his threes. Close behind is Bryce Thompson who averages 11.6 points a contest.