Orlando - Whenever a team loses a close game, there are usually glaring reasons why. Looking back over the game against Oklahoma, there are certainly plenty of directions one can point a finger for the 65-62 loss to the Sooners. Three stand out among many.
If UCF can fix these three areas, it will compete for the American Athletic Conference championship. The Knights are far more talented than many know.
Now, it’s up to them to fix the little things to change the scoreboard, and the win column, moving forward. The first category is by far the biggest fix that’s needed.
Driving to the Basket
UCF does not get into the lane nearly enough. This is by far the biggest problem with the half court offense. As a reason for why, let’s start with free throws. The Knights only attempted eight free throws for the game, and made five.
To beat a good team, you need access to as many easy points as possible, with free throws being a great place to start. Driving to the bucket will create a lot of contact and then the whistles will blow from the officials.
Considering the level of just raw athleticism on the UCF roster, this is not a coaching situation, but rather a player situation. Every single starter other than Cheikh Mbacke Diong should always be looking to take his man off the dribble. A layup or dunk is the easiest attempt on the court.
Whether it’s Darius Perry, Darin Green, Jr., Tyem Freeman or another member of the Knights, somebody has to start the trend of being creative and finding driving lanes to the bucket.
Conversely, UCF shot 24 three pointers. That’s a lot. While hitting 11 three shows accuracy, if even a couple of those threes went away and were replaced with driving to the hoop, the Knights might have received a few more and-one situations, too. There are many good things in addition to the points that come from driving the ball to the basket.
Foul trouble for the other team, layups and dunks get the team fired up, the chance for Mbacke Diong to get a dunk off a pass after another teammate draws in an extra defender(s), and a better chance at an offensive rebound with a close shot all come to mind.
Moving into the next game at Auburn on Wednesday, Dec. 1, let’s see if UCF continues to move the basketball around the perimeter, but also gets to the rim more often by driving the basketball.
Run Outs Should Lead to Points
With UCF’s speed at guard and on the wings, it’s surprising that Oklahoma was consistently able to stay in front of the Knights before they could reach the basket during a fast break.
Anytime there was a block (UCF had four), a steal or pulled down a rebound, there was a chance for a run out. It just did not manifest that way.
Especially during the first 10 to 15 minutes of the first half, UCF struggled to get anything going. Credit Oklahoma, yes, but also there needs to be a better job of UCF finding an outlet man and getting out and running after a missed shot, turnover, or even after a made basket.
Much like with driving the basketball in the half court, UCF needs to be in attack mode much more often than it was against Oklahoma. Finally, the reserves need to find a way to score.
The Knights only produced 17 points off the bench against Oklahoma. That needs to be 20, at minimum, to consistently play with top talent like Oklahoma. This is a more complex issue as compared to the first two categories, however.
Sometimes a coach will bypass bench scoring because he’s happy with the way his squad is playing defensively. Additionally, shooting can be hot and cold for no apparent reason. Still, there has to be something extra the Knights can do. It's not like UCF needs another 10 points off the bench.
Just 21, maybe 23 bench points. That's the range UCF needs to be in against top competition. It's the difference between winning and losing.
The players off the bench for Knights were 6/14 from the floor. That’s a 42.9% rate, which should not be considered bad. Still, even if there’s some extra work done during practice to come up with more comfortable plays for bench players to make a couple of more shots, that’s something UCF Head Basketball Coach Johnny Dawkins might need to look at.
17 points off the bench might be okay for some teams, but this UCF squad is deep. They should score in the 20s off the bench.
For UCF coverage and recruiting information go to: The Daily Knight podcast. For more college football, UCF and recruiting information, go to Twitter: @fbscout_florida and @UCF_FanNation, as well as my YouTube Channel and Instagram page. Like and Subscribe!