Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics
By John Weis (’94)
Next UCF Opponent: Cincinnati Bearcats (17-10, 8-6 AAC)
2021-2022 Record: 18-15 (7-11 AAC)
Coach: Wes Miller (12th Season, 220-160 Overall, 2nd Season at Cincinnati, 35-253)
Last Game: 2/15 at East Carolina (L, 75-71)
Opening Tip: 2/19 Noon EST, Addition Financial Arena, Orlando (TV: ESPNU)
Opponent at a Glance
The emotional loss to Memphis earlier in the week effectively dashed the Knights’ slim hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid, barring an unforeseen run in the conference tournament. With only a few days to prepare for Cincinnati, it will be interesting to see how the team responds against Cincinnati.
Leading the way for the Bearcats is Memphis transfer Landers Nolley II, a 6’7” Senior. He’s averaging 16.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists a game while shooting an impressive 42.4% from deep. Next is 6’0” Senior David DeJulius (14.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 5.0 apg); followed by 6’11” Sophomore Viktor Lakhin, a native of Anapa, Russia (12.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 62.5% FG). Note that Lakhin, who leads the team in rebounds, blocks and steals, has missed the last two games after rolling his ankle versus Tulane. If he is not able to go, this would be a major boost for the Knights’ chances.
Other major contributors include 6’7” Junior Jeremiah Davenport (10.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.7 apg); 6’3” Junior Mika Adams-Woods (9.1 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.1 apg); 6’6” Freshman Dan Skillings Jr (4.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg); and 6’9” Junior Ody Oguama (4.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Senior Kalu Ezipke (3.2 ppg, 2.1 rpg) has been part of the starting lineup in Lakhin’s absence.
The Bearcats are also reeling a bit at the moment, having just lost a road game to East Carolina. This was a game in which they led for 38 of the 40 minutes, and they let a 16-point lead get away from them in the final nine minutes, surrendering a 26-6 Pirate run.
ECU took full advantage of the 6’11” Lakhin’s absence, outrebounding the Bearcats 46-27. ECU seemed especially motivated for the game, as they played their first home game following the sudden, tragic passing of play-by-play man Jeff Charles.
Cincinnati leads the all-time series 13-5, including their win earlier this year. The Knights split a pair of games with the Bearcats last year, taking the second one at home in February by a 75-61 count. CJ Walker paced the Knights in scoring that day with 13, and Isaiah Adams had 12 off the bench in just 14 minutes of action.
The Bearcats are averaging 77.2 points per game and giving up 68.8. In conference play, they’re scoring 74.3 points per game and are surrendering 69.0.
The ESPN matchup predictor gives the Knights a 70.7 percent chance to win. This is, quite frankly, a bit higher than I would have expected.
Aside from Oscar Robertson, the Bearcat who has had the most success in the NBA may be completely unfamiliar to younger fans – including younger Bearcat fans. That’s because it is Jack Twyman, who played his college ball for them in the early 1950s.
When he graduated, he was the school’s all-time leading scorer and was chosen in the second round of the 1955 NBA Draft by the Rochester Royals, who later became the Cincinnati Royals. The highlight of the gifted forward’s time in the NBA was the 1960 season, when he put up an incredible 31.2 points per game, second only to Wilt Chamberlain that year. All told, the smooth-shooting Twyman averaged 19.3 points and 6.6 rebounds over his illustrious 11-year career. His efforts garnered him Hall of Fame status in 1983.
While a Bearcat, Twyman was a monster on the glass, averaging 13.8 rebounds per game, which still ranks second in school history behind Robertson’s amazing total of 15.2 – done from the point guard position!
Former Bearcat and recent Super Bowl champion Travis Kelce is the guest host of this weekend’s Saturday Night Live. I remember when that show used to be good.
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.