Newman, Skillings lead second half comeback to defeat UCF, 68-57

After playing six consecutive games against ranked opponents, the Bearcats welcomed their first non-ranked Big 12 opponent when the Central Florida Knights visited Fifth Third Arena for a 7 pm tip off.

Coming off back-to-back losses to Oklahoma and Kansas, and four Big 12 losses total by an average of 3.4 points, Wes Miller was quick to point out what his team has been through to date. 

"I thought our team has been really resilient these last three weeks," Cincinnati head coach Wes Miller said following the 74-69 loss to Kansas. "Six straight games against Top 25 teams is a heck of a challenge. You love that, but they haven't gone our way. We're a couple of possessions from being real good over that time."

In a late development before the tip against UCF, Cincinnati forward Vik Lakhin did not return to the floor following pre- game work outs.

"Vik tried to practice through it yesterday and went through shoot around today and he tried to give it a go. He just couldn't" said Miller following the game. "I was really proud of him for just trying. That really meant a lot to me because I know he was pretty down and out with whatever illness is going around the team."

UCF was also down two starters with forward CJ Walker and guard Shemarri Allen both being in street clothes on the sidelines. 

UCF entered Saturday's match up with the 6th best defense in the country, according to Kenpom's adjusted defensive metrics. The Knights had held four of their previous five opponents to 63 points or less. 

Cincinnati raced out to an early 13-4 lead with 17:11 remaining in the first half following a personal 6-0 Dan Skillings runs. 

(Photo: Taylor Keeton)

John Newman extended the Bearcats lead to 15-6 on the next Bearcats' possession which would ignite the UCF offense.

Over the next 4:37, UCF would go on a 16-2 run as the Bearcats didn't make a field goal from the 16:39 mark to the 11:38 mark of the first half.

Day Day Thomas' jumper with 11:37 left in the first half cut the UCF lead to 19-17.

With 6:57 remaining in the first half, John Newman cut the UCF lead to 1, 24-23.

(Photo: Taylor Keeton)

Over the next 3:16, UCF outscored the Bearcats 7-0 as UC missed all four field goal attempts.

UCF leading scorer Jaylin Sellers also hadn't missed a field goal attempt to that point, making 5-of-5 field goal attempts and both three-point attempts for 12 points. 

Three Marchellus Avery free throws, following a foul by Aziz Bandaogo, extended the UCF lead to 34-23.

Bandaogo answered with baskets on the next two Cincinnati possessions but UCF scored five straight on a three by Avery and lay-up by Nils Machowski to push the lead out to 12, 39-27, with 1:03 remaining in the first half. 

(Photo: Taylor Keeton)

Cincinnati shot just 33 percent on 30 field goal attempts during the first half and made just 2-of-9 3-point attempts as they trailed by 12 at the half.

Avery (16) and Sellers (12) combined for 28 first half points as the Knights made 52% of their field goal attempts and 5-of-10 3-point attempts. 

UC opened the second half with a 6-0 run from 19:21 to the 16:47 mark to cut the UCF lead to 6, 41-35.

Day Day Thomas scored four points during the run to get the crowd on their feet and back in the game. 

(Photo: Taylor Keeton)

UCF ended their field goal drought with baskets on consecutive possessions to push their lead back to 10, 45-35, at the first media stop of the second half. 

UC would come alive over the next 3:51.

Defensively, they held UCF without a field goal and six consecutive misses from the field. 

Offensively, the Bearcats used a 9-0 run to cut the UCF lead to 1, 45-44, with 11:44 left to play. 

John Newman scored four-straight during the run, following baskets by Day Day Thomas and Dan Skillings.

UCF ended their field goal drought with an Avery three-pointer after consecutive possessions by UC ended in a block and turnover.

Cincinnati continued to fight, despite the missed opportunities.

(Photo: Taylor Keeton)

A 13-3 run that spanned 7:05 was capped off by Dan Skillings' lay up to tie the game at 48. Day Day Thomas gave UC a 50-49 lead with a driving layup to once again bring the Cincinnati faithful to their feet as the crowd erupted.

With 7:18 left, Cincinnati at limited UCF to just one field goal over their previous eleven attempts and without a field goal for 3:32.

Antwann Jones ended the UCF field goal drought with a 3-pointer to give the Knights a 52-50 lead with 6:56 left to play. 

The Bearcats tied the game at 52 with a thunderous one hand dunk by John Newman in traffic over 7-footer Omar Payne.

(Photo: Taylor Keeton) 

Despite a 7-of-15 showing from the free throw line in the second half, the Bearcats had erased a 12-point halftime deficit and were tied with 4:27 remaining. 

Dan Skillings gave UC a 54-52 lead off an assist by Thomas and buried a 3-pointer on the next UC possession to give the Cats a 57-52 lead with 2:12 left to play. The personal 5-0 run by Skillings, who was also celebrating a birthday, gave him 19 points to lead the Bearcats.

UCF missed nine consecutive field goal attempts and were held without a field goal for over 6 minutes prior to Thierno Sylla making a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left to cut the UC lead to six, 61-55.

 Dan Skillings capped off the UC scoring with a thunderous one hand dunk in transition to give him 21 points, 7 rebounds to lead the Cats to a come from behind 68-57 win.

(Photo: Taylor Keeton)

Key stats and notes:

Cincinnati outscored UCF 41-18 in the second half, while out-rebounding the Knights 23-12 and owning the paint, out-scoring UCF 24-4. For the game, UC out-rebounded the Knights 39-29 and held a 36-20 advantage in points in the paint. 



- Cincinnati was able to turn 14 UCF turnovers in to 16 points. The Bearcats ability to get in to transition was a factor tonight against the 6th best defensive team in the country. UC finished with an 18-11 fast break points advantage. . 

- UCF was held to just one field goal in their final eleven attempts. Cincinnati's ability to really dig in defensively and also limit second chance opportunities were both key reasons that they Bearcats were able to pull away down the stretch. They were able to limit UCF leading scorer Marchelus Avery to just three second half points and held Jaylin Sellers without a field goal over the final 15:56 as he missed all four field goal attempts. 



- John Newman proved once again tonight why he is so valuable to this team. The sixth year senior finished with 19 points, 7 rebounds, but also drew six fouls with his aggressive play. 

- With Vik Lakhin unable to go tonight, Ody Oguama gave Cincinnati a big boost off the bench with his 4 points, 6 rebounds in 11 minutes of action. His ability to help Cincinnati match up defensively when UCF went small really shifted momentum in UC's favor. 



- Aziz Bandaogo finished with 8 points, 7 rebounds but was 2-of-6 from the free throw line. As a team, UC finished 17-of-25 from the free throw line. With the Bearcats struggling from deep (3-of-14 v UCF), converting easy opportunities from the line will be crucial throughout the rest of Big 12 play.  

- It was good to see Simas Lukosius bounce back from a 1-for-9 showing against Kansas Monday night. Lukosius finished with 7 points, 6 assists, but his basket with 1:59 left to give UC a 59-52 lead ended any hope of UCF coming back. 

- Day Day Thomas was 3-for-11 from the field, 0-for-4 from three, but managed to score nine points and dish out four assists. Three of his assists came in the final 5:15 that allowed UC to pull away. 

Final thoughts:

Coming off consecutive losses, this was an important win for the Bearcats to continue to keep confidence and build as they try to get healthy for the final 10 games of the regular season. This team is far from perfect and still not healthy, but when they play like they did in the second half of tonight's game, it is easy to understand why Wes continues to re-iterate that he really likes his team and thinks they aren't close to reaching their ceiling yet. 

Up next:

Wednesday 1/31 at West Virginia

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