Men's Hoops Set for Regular Season Finale at TCU

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

ORLANDO – The UCF men’s basketball team is set for its final regular season contest in its inaugural Big 12 Conference campaign, visiting TCU for a 5 p.m. ET tip on Saturday.

The Knights will visit the Horned Frogs at their place for the first time but it will be the second tilt between the two. The only other meeting was in head coach Johnny Dawkins’ first season at the helm of the Black and Gold as he led the Knights to the 2017 NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. UCF has been to Fort Worth a number of times though, participating in the American Athletic Conference Championship at Dickies Arena since the 2021 postseason tournament.

The Black and Gold held a lead over No. 1 Houston at halftime, the first time leading the nation’s top team at the break in program history. In the end, the Cougars’ top-ranked defense prevailed, holding UCF under 60 points and forcing 18 turnovers. C.J. Walker led the way in the scoring column for the Knights, netting a season-high 15 points on his senior night, including a highlight dunk that later appeared on SportsCenter.

The Knights are looking to erase a two-game slide after losing by eight to two top-10 teams in the polls. The Black and Gold were right in both contests despite chalking up back-to-back results in the loss column. UCF led No. 8/6 Iowa State on Mar. 2 with five minutes to go in the contest but failed to make a field goal the rest of the way. The Knights were in front of No. 1 Houston for two-thirds of the ballgame before a surge from three-point range put the Cougars in front with 12:01 left and powered them the rest of the way to the final buzzer.

TCU earned a 93-81 win at West Virginia in its last contest which snapped a two-game skid. The Horned Frogs typically score a lot of points, averaging 80.5 points per game, a mark that is ranked 37th in the nation and third in the Big 12 Conference. They do so by shooting the 40th-highest field goal percentage in the country with a 47.5% mark. Like UCF, TCU makes a living on the defensive side of the ball by generating a high number of steals, averaging 9.0 to UCF’s 8.8, which are both top 20 marks in the nation. However, UCF has more success in keeping opponents from scoring, surrendering 66.7 points per game, a top 50 mark in the country, while TCU surrenders an average of 71.4, a clip outside the top 150 teams in Division I and the third to last in the conference.

Darius Johnson and Shemarri Allen have played a big role in contributing to the impressive steal numbers the Knights have posted. Johnson ranks 14th in the country in steals per game with a 2.31 clip while Allen ranks fifth in the conference and 90th in the nation with an average of 1.78 per contest. Johnson has 11 straight games with at least two steals and has six four-steal performances during that stretch.

The Horned Frogs have three players that average more than 10 points per game, with Emanuel Miller leading the way with 16.1 while also reeling in a team-high 5.9 rebounds per contest. Behind Miller are Micah Peavy and Jameer Nelson Jr. who each average 11.6 points per game. Nelson leads the team in thefts with 60, an average of exactly 2.0 per game.