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UCF’s Losing Streak Continues With Home Loss To Temple 

Cedric Donaldson

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UCF hosted the Temple Owls on Saturday in a pivotal conference matchup, just days after another tough bout with 3rd-ranked Houston. It was the first meeting of the season between the two teams, and one that delivered a thrilling game –– if ultimately a disappointing one for the Knights faithful. 

The game started well for UCF. Taylor Hendricks and Ithiel Horton both made plays out of the gate, and Lahat Thioune –– continuing to start in place of the injured Michael Durr –– took control of the paint. By the 10-minute mark, the Knights led 20-10, and but for two triples from Temple guard Hysier Miller (not a particularly strong shooter, incidentally), the game might have been blown wide open. 

From that point on however, Temple managed to establish a rhythm on both sides of the ball. Offensively, big man Jamille Reyolds, in just his second game back from a thumb injury, began to assert himself against the smaller Thioune. Owls star Khalif Battle also started to heat up, knocking down two threes and converting an and-one in quick succession. And all the while, the Temple defense ramped up its energy, ultimately holding UCF to a single field goal in the final seven minutes of the half. Despite the Knights’ quick start, Temple took a 36-29 lead into the locker room.  

In the second half, UCF took the court looking visibly determined to avoid further slippage (and a fourth straight conference loss). The Knights’ defensive intensity kicked up, with the result that Temple was held to just 10 points in the first 11 minutes of the half. In that same span, UCF spread the wealth offensively and gradually clawed to a 49-46 lead with under nine minutes to play. From there, Battle would get going for Temple again leading to a final stretch during which the teams traded leads on tense baskets and clutch free throws. Temple led 62-58 after two Battle free throws with 48 seconds remaining. In those final 48 seconds however, UCF’s Darius Johnson managed to get himself to the line six times. He converted four, including two with one second left on the clock to send the game into overtime. 

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Johnson opened the overtime period with a quick three-pointer. But that would prove to be about the final bright spot for UCF. A hectic sequence in which Jamille Reynolds blocked Lahat Thioune, Temple came up with the ball, and Battle threw down a dunk, gave the Owls a two-point lead they wouldn’t surrender. Battle hit free throws down the stretch, and UCF couldn’t quite climb back into it again. Temple prevailed, leading 77-70 when the final buzzer sounded. 

The game was a dramatic display of conference drama, but ultimately a heartbreaking one for the UCF faithful. It’s safe to say at this point that UCF has reached the roughest patch of its season to date. The overtime loss marked a fourth straight loss since the Knights defeated Memphis in a 107-104 shootout on January 11th. This sends the team into the final full month of the season sitting at 13-8 and 4-5 in the AAC; an NCAA Tournament berth that once seemed likely suddenly feels like a long shot. 

UCF next faces a tough two-game road trip with games at Cincinnati and Wichita State. It will need to right the ship quickly if it’s to climb back up the conference ranks and towards the tournament bubble. 

 

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UCF Knights

UCF Knights Secure Centerpiece Big Man for 2024-25 Season

UCF’s men’s basketball team has just secured the service of a big-time talent after blue chip big man Moustapha Thiam decided to reclassify for 2024-25 season.

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Moustapha Thiam

UCF’s men’s basketball team has just secured the service of a big-time talent after blue chip big man Moustapha Thiam decided to reclassify, making him eligible to play for the Knights this coming college basketball season.

Thiam, the No.1 center in ESPN’s class of 2025, will anchor the Knights’ defense in their second season in the Big 12.

The 7-foot-2 Senegalese impressed scouts with his terrific play at the Adidas 3SSB circuit, serving as the focal point of Austin Rivers SE Elite in the tournament. In 28 minutes per game, he averaged 5.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.7 blocks and 1.0 steals.

 

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With Thiam joining a roster of seniors and promising young players, Johnny Dawkins’ UCF Knights is expected to outperform their surprising 7-11 record in their Big 12 debut last season.

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UCF has retained the service of Jaylin Sellers and Darius Johnson, the two top-scorers from last season, and secured commitments from a slew of transferees such as JJ Taylor and Mikey Williams from Memphis, Keyshawn Hall from George Mason, and Deebo Coleman from Georgia Tech.

The program has successfully recruited Cameron Simpson, a local standout from Oak Ridge in Orlando, Florida.

Scouting Report Provides Things to Expect from Moustapha Thiam

Moustapha Thiam is an enticing prospect because of his large 7-foot-2 size, impressive length, and quick-twitch movement.

As a true center, he can open his hips, glide laterally, and recover from switches.

While he has to gain muscle, especially considering his slight foundation and narrow shoulders, he is an excellent rim protector who can influence ball movement and play from the weak side.

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Thiam possesses a nice touch for pick-and-pop jumpers with his feet set and good hands for passes at chest level or higher.

As he continues to develop in each game, he will improve his decision-making skills. His size and physical tools set him apart from his contemporaries.

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Building Relationships with the Community: Gus Malzahn Winning Strategy

Tramayne Wright

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Coach Lo discusses how Gus Malzahn identifies the key figures within the local community in Central Florida.

 

Gus Malzahn had a vision. He saw the potential in the local sports scene and knew he had to seize the opportunity. Coach Lo Wood vividly remembers the strategic move that set Malzahn apart: reaching out to key figures in the community.

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“The first thing I recognized about Gus was how he instantly reached out to the guys in the community,” Coach Wood shared. “He called me up and said, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ And it wasn’t just talk. Gus meant it. He wanted to build something real.”

Mazzone’s approach wasn’t just about forming superficial connections. He sought out genuine relationships with influential community members. Soon, other notable figures like AG Waseem and Ellis Danley were echoing the same sentiment. “Next thing you know, there’s AG Waseem saying the same thing, ‘I want to be in a relationship with you.’ Then he calls Ellis Danley with the same message. It was clear that Gus was building a network of trust and cooperation,” Coach Wood explained.

These were not random choices. The individuals Malzahn reached out to were deeply embedded in the community, and respected for their roles and commitment to the local youth. “Who are all these guys he’s been in a relationship with?” Coach Wood asked. “They’re the guys from the community, the ones who have the kids with them every day. They’re the mentors, the coaches, the father figures.”

Malzahn vision was to ensure that talented athletes didn’t feel the need to leave their hometown to find success. “I knew right then that a lot of athletes were going to stay home and be hometown heroes,” Coach Wood stated. “That’s the way to do it.”

He elaborated on the significance of this approach. “When you have someone like Gus, who invests in the community and builds these relationships, it creates a support system for the kids. They see that they can achieve their dreams right here, with the people who have always been there for them. It’s about pride, it’s about belonging, and it’s about giving back.”

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Coach Wood believes this method will have a lasting impact. “What Gus is doing isn’t just about winning games. It’s about building character, fostering community spirit, and creating a legacy. These kids are not just athletes; they’re future leaders, and Gus is showing them that they can lead from their own backyard.”

Malzahn efforts are not just about creating successful athletes; they are about nurturing future leaders who can lead from their own community. By building a strong foundation within the local sports scene, Gus Malzahn is making a lasting impact that will benefit the community for generations to come.

 

 

Coach Lo talks about The Importance of Building a Strong Community for the UCF Knights

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UCF Football Set for Black Friday Showdown with Utah Utes on Nov. 29

UCF Football announced the date of their Black Friday football game against the Utah Utes.

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UU vs. UCF

UCF Football announced the date of their Black Friday football game against the Utah Utes.

Fox Sports will broadcast the Knights’ final regular-season match on their 2024 college football schedule on November 29 from the FBC Mortgage Stadium in Orlando, Florida.

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The Knights had a solid run during their maiden season in their new league, finishing with 3-6 Big 12 record and 6-7 overall.

UCF won their first three games against Kent State, Boise State, and Villanova before pulling off a signature upset win over the No.15 ranked Oklahoma State, 45-3, last November 11.

Expectations are high for the Knights this coming season after securing the service of two-time Bowl Games MVP KJ Jefferson. The quarterback spent his first five years in Arkansas, setting most of the passing records for the Razorbacks.

UCF also bolstered other areas of their offense following the transfer of elite running back Peny Boone from Maryland and wide receiver Agiye Hall from Texas.

The Knights’ Black Friday game opponent, Utah, will debut in the Big 12 this season after capping their Pac 12 run with an 8-5 season (5-4 conference).

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UCF Football will kick off their second season in the Big 12 on August 29 against New Hampshire at home field.

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