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UCF Closes Out The Regular Season With Rout Of East Carolina

Cedric Donaldson

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ecupirates.com photo credit

With last Thursday’s loss at Temple, UCF’s hopes of a .500 finish in conference play were dashed. The Knights put up a fight in Philadelphia, but wound up in a heartbreaker as Temple’s Nick Jourdain won the game on a last-second drive. With the .500 finish out of the question though, UCF still had conference tournament positioning to play for in its final outing against East Carolina. And on Sunday, the Knights turned that outing into a positive step.

ECU entered the contest playing some of its better basketball of the season. That may not be saying a whole lot in a down year for the Pirates, but a recent split with Tulane showed that ECU could be tricky on a given night. One could have imagined a version of this game in which UCF came in discouraged after the Temple loss and ECU –– which nearly beat the Knights in North Carolina earlier this season –– capitalized with a road statement. As it turned out however, Johnny Dawkins’s squad hit the floor on Sunday ready to take care of business.

The Knights sprinted out to a quick start, thanks in large part to outstanding play by lead guard Ithiel Horton. Beginning with an early three that opened the scoring in the game, Horton worked his way to nine points and three assists in the first eight minutes of play. As a result, the Knights established a commanding 24-10 lead by the second TV timeout. Things might have gotten out of hand from there, but a bit of sharpshooting from Quentin Diboundje and Jaden Walker kept the Pirates from getting blown off the court. At the half, UCF led 40-25.

As has been typical of a lot of UCF’s games this conference season, the pace picked up in the second half. A pair of buckets from Walker and RJ Felton helped the Pirates claw to within 11, and put a little bit of pressure on the Knights early in the half. CJ Kelly and (who else?) Taylor Hendricks answered with a quick flurry that ballooned the margin to 20, however, and from there the game loosened up considerably.

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ECU was able to establish itself inside somewhat, with freshman big Ezra Ausar (who’s going to be a problem for AAC rivals in years to come) turning in a big half. A well-rounded attack from UCF’s typical cast of contributors was too much for the Pirates to withstand, however, and there was little drama during the home stretch. The home crowd did get a bit of a thrill, however, when bench guard Poohpha Warakulnukroh –– a sophomore from Bangkok, Thailand –– entered the game and knocked down a three (and a free throw shortly thereafter). A couple free throws from Lahat Thioune closed out the scoring, with UCF up 84-58 at the final buzzer.

With the win, UCF finished its regular season at 17-13 overall, with an 8-10 record in conference play. That’s good for the 7th seed in the AAC Tournament, and will see the Knights matched up with 10-seed SMU in an opening round game on Thursday. UCF won the only meeting between the two teams this season by a decisive score of 85-53, back on January 8. A win would see UCF into the final eight, and a rematch with 2-seed Memphis. Notably, the Knights and Tigers played two of the most thrilling games in the AAC this season.

For the Knights, however, the only thing that matters now is showing up against SMU.

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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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