Monday November 30th, 2020
Auburn Tigers at UCF Knights
Network: ESPN+, Auburn Radio Network
After a 2 game pitstop in Fort Myers, the Tigers finally made their way to Orlando, where they were originally scheduled to play in the Orlando Invitational over Thanksgiving. But after ESPN and Orlando cut the cord on all of the games happening there, Auburn had to find an alternative solution for a multi-team event and ended up in Fort Myers to start the season. But a late add to the schedule still got Auburn to Orlando this season.
Auburn will take on UCF in the Tigers first true road game of the season and the third and final game of this Florida road trip. This is the beginning of a home and home series as Johnny Dawkins will bring his Knights to Auburn next season. This will be the season opener for UCF, which was originally scheduled for Saturday, but due to COVID issues at Oklahoma, the Sooners did not make the trip this past weekend.
After an OT win over Saint Joe’s on Thursday, Auburn looks to bounce back after a 90-67 loss to #1 Gonzaga on Friday.
Get to Know UCF
When you look at UCF’s initial non-conference schedule, one wonders what would happen if their football team would schedule this: Oklahoma (cancelled), Auburn, at Michigan, at Florida State. There wouldn’t be any complains about that schedule. Oh I’m sorry this is basketball.
The Knights were bounced from the 2019 NCAA Tournament in heartbreaking fashion by Duke in the Round of 32 but took a step in Year 1 without Tacko Fall. They were 16-14 last season and finished 8th in the American Conference.
UCF was picked 8th in the conference once again but are the 3rd straight Auburn opponent to get a key player eligible the week that the season began.
Sophomore forward C.J. Walker (#21) was cleared to play by the NCAA last week after transferring back home from Oregon. The Orlando-area native was a Top 30 recruit across multiple recruiting outlets but never found his footing in Eugene as he averaged just 4 PPG in his only year with the Ducks. Walker hopes to get on track playing close to home.
Walker’s addition was massive as last year’s returning scorer and rebounder, Collin Smith will not play this year due to health concerns.
Smith’s loss means the Knights will not have their top 4 scorers from last year, including former Alabama player Dazon Ingram.
Senior guard Brandon Mahan (#13) is the Knights returning leading scorer at 7.5 PPG. Mahan is a Birmingham native and began his career at Texas A&M. He’s good at getting to the rim but looks to improve his 3-point shooting this year as he shot just 29.8% from distance last season.
Sophomore guard Dre Fuller Jr. (#24) battled a knee injury last season and missed 10 games but returns to the Knights after averagin 6.3 PPG last season.
Teams shot just 42% overall last season and only 31% from 3 against UCF last season. However they averaged just 68.9 PPG offensively. This game will be a huge test for Auburn’s big men as the Knights are predicated on big men as well as tough defense in the paint.
JUCO transfer Moses Bol (#33) will make his UCF debut this evening after redshirting last year. Bol is 7-1 and a cousin of the late great Manute Bol. Bol is known much more for his play on the defensive end.
Senior Avery Diggs (#5) is 6-11, 245 pounds and likely UCF’s biggest threat to step out and take a 3-pointer. His role should increase with Smith’s absence.
Keys for Auburn
Jaylin Williams and JT Thor got into foul trouble early Friday and were unable to get going. Williams was the star on Thursday going for 18 points and 11 rebounds and looks to bounce back after going scoreless against the Zags.
Devan Cambridge struggled a bit in his first two games this year and looks to turn it around in this one. He was 3-14 from 3 in the 2 games in Fort Myers. I’m looking for Devan to have a much better game tonight.
Allen Flanigan scored a career high 20 points on Friday and his offensive game looks to have taken a step forward in his sophomore season. Flanigan is leading the team averaging 16 PPG so far this year. His free throw shooting looks much better as well going 8-10 in the first 2 games after he was just a 46% free throw shooter last season.
Auburn has 2 games under their belt while UCF has yet to play one. Depending on how you look at it, it’s a good thing that the Tigers have some game experience under their belt. But the Tigers didn’t have any game film from UCF since they have yet to take the court this year.
This one’s honestly a toss up for me but I’m going to take Auburn in this one.
Auburn 72 UCF 66