Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics
By John Weis (’94)
Next UCF Opponent: Wichita State Shockers (12-11, 5-6 AAC)
2021-2022 Record: 15-13 (6-9 AAC)
Coach: Isaac Brown (3rd Season, 43-30)
Last Game: 2/5 at Tulsa (W, 86-75)
Opening Tip: 2/8 8:00, Koch Arena, Wichita, Kansas (TV: ESPN Plus)
Opponent at a Glance
This is the second meeting between the teams, as the Knights scored a 52-45 December win at home in the AAC season opener for both schools. Not much has changed for the Shockers, as their two leading scorers also pace the team in every major statistical category.
Their top scorer is a Georgia transfer, 6’7” Jaykwon Walton (14.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1,6 apg). He’s followed closely by 6’2” Senior Craig Porter Jr (12.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4.0 apg), who missed the first game against the Knights with an injury.
Other key players include 6’5” Sophomore and Southern Miss transfer Jaron Pierre Jr. (9.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg); and 6’6” Senior James Rojas (9.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.2 apg), who has elevated his play tremendously in recent weeks. 6”11 big man Kenny Pohto, a Sophomore, averages 7.8 points per game to go along with 5.6 boards.
Diminutive 5’10” Sophomore guard Melvion Flanagan (6.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg) began the season as a walk-on but forced himself into the lineup prior to the start of conference play. Gus Okafor (4.2 ppg, 3.4 rpg) is a 6’6” Senior. Though he averages just 4.0 points per game, 6’3” Sophomore Xavier Bell has been receiving more playing time off the bench as of late.
What do you do when your team has lost five straight games and is banged up, and your confidence is likely not particularly high? You beat teams with similar records, even if it’s on the road. That’s the task in front of the Knights. They certainly have the talent to do it … but will they?
While Wichita State has won five of their last eight games, they were against teams they should beat – Tulsa (twice), East Carolina, SMU and South Florida. Their three losses were to Houston, Tulane and Memphis.
This season, Wichita State has averaged 68.8 points per game and given up 66.5.
The ESPN matchup predictor gives the Knights a 54.9% chance to win.
The bad news is, Wichita State leads the all-time series 8-2. The good news is, UCF has now won the last two in a row. As mentioned earlier, the Knights won this season’s first matchup behind 15 points from Darius Johnson, and nine each from Taylor Hendricks and Brandon Suggs.
Wichita State became a basketball-only member of the AAC in 2017. Prior to that, they played in the Missouri Valley Conference.
The Shocker who has had the best NBA career to date is arguably the “X-Man”, Xavier McDaniel, who averaged 15.6 points and 6.1 rebounds in a 13-year NBA career that included stops in Boston, New Jersey, New York, Phoenix and Seattle. A first-team All-American his last year at Wichita State, he was the fourth player picked in the 1985 draft by Seattle. He was an All-Rookie selection and made the Western Conference All-Star team in 1988. He was also one of the most intense, intimidating players of his time, as evidenced by this photo that features McDaniel and Wes Matthews, the object of his ire at that particular time.
John Weis is a freelance Writing/PR professional. His company, Weis Words (www.weiswords.biz) serves national clients such as advertising agencies, public relations firms and sports organizations, as well as small businesses and private individuals. A native Central Floridian and basketball enthusiast, he spent six seasons as Broadcast Coordinator for the Orlando Magic Radio Network early in his career. He graduated from UCF in 1994 with a degree in Communications and can’t wait for the Knights to move to the Big XII.