UCF Men’s Basketball wasted no time announcing that they could be a force this year.
The Knights, coming off a fairly disappointing 2019-20 campaign, opened the new season with a statement 63-55 win over Auburn on Monday night. The Tigers, who finished 2nd in the SEC last year, simply looked outmatched at times.
Dre Fuller led the way for the Knights, finishing with 13 points to go along with seven rebounds and five assists, while former five-star recruit and Oregon transfer C.J. Walker also shined off the bench, putting up nine points and eight rebounds in a promising debut.
The long layoff between seasons was evident early, as both teams struggled to get going on offense. UCF made just 37 percent of its shots from the field in the first half, and often struggled to get quality looks. But the Tigers struggled just as much, missing their first 12 three point attempts and turning the ball over frequently.
The difference ended up being the free throw line. UCF committed a number of costly fouls early but got lucky as Auburn failed to turn those errors into points, going a miserable 3-for-14 from the free throw line in the first half.
After holding a narrow lead for much of the half, the Knights finally broke the game open with a couple minutes to go, thanks to a pair of threes from Walker and Tony Johnson.
The Tigers couldn’t respond and the Knights managed to get to halftime with a nine-point lead.
In the second half, both offenses seemed to knock some of the rust off and get things going. And UCF began to show how much potential this year holds.
Auburn simply could not get back in the game. Every time it seemed like the Tigers were primed for a run, the Knights responded and kept the lead at a comfortable difference.
Brandon Mahan was especially key in the second half, burying a couple important shots when Auburn got too close and finishing the night with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting.
UCF went on to win by eight.
Barring any cancellations, the Knights have two more big-time nonconference games left on the slate. UCF will next be in action at Michigan on Dec. 6.