It had been over 700 days since No. 15 FSU men’s basketball had lost a game at home. When the game clock struck zero on Saturday night, that 27-game home winning streak was snapped by UCF.
For the Knights, they entered this game winless against the Seminoles in their 11 matchups, with eight of them being in Tallahassee. Senior guard Brandon Mahan had a career-high 32 points to lead UCF (2-1) to the 86-74 victory over FSU (4-1).
“You saw a glimpse of it tonight,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said in a post-game press conference when asked about Mahan’s offensive performance. “That’s who he can be. He has the ability to make plays with the basketball in his hands.”
The Knights found their pace on offense through freshman Isaiah Adams who made his first collegiate start. In the first half, Adams led the Knights with 16 points on four-of-eight shooting from the field and adding seven free throws. The Knights converted on 88% of their free throws in the game, making 23-of-26, including a perfect 10-for-10 from Mahan.
Despite the offensive push from Adams, the Seminoles led by 10 points halfway through the first half. The Knights would close the gap to three with less than two minutes remaining, but a late three-point basket from Anthony Polite would put FSU up 39-34 heading into halftime.
The Seminoles offensive attack in the first half was coming from their two leading scorers on the season in senior M.J. Walker with 11, and freshman Scottie Barnes with eight. While Barnes went scoreless in the second half, Walker would match his first half numbers, finishing with a team-high 22 points. Polite and Raiquan Gray both added 14 points.
FSU’s defensive adjustments were able to contain Adams to only six points in the second half. However, it would be Mahan and sophomore Darin Green Jr to step up for the Knights. Mahan would go on to score 26 of his 32 points in the second half, while Green added 12 of his 20 points, making all of his four shots from beyond the arc.
“I’ve coached a number of really good shooters and he’s right up there as one of the top shooters I’ve coached,” Dawkins said about Green. “He can get it going, and all of a sudden, two threes become seven threes real quick.”
The trio of Mahan, Green, and Adams accounted for 74 of the Knights 86 points.
“That’s who they have to be,” Dawkins said when asked about the trio. “As you can see, they play with a lot of confidence, and I think that confidence permeated through the rest of our team as well. Other guys made plays maybe not scoring the basketball but rebounding or blocking a shot.”
Walker credited the Knights offense with making difficult shots, crashing the offensive glass, and creating opportunities for their teammates.
“They were getting downhill, making a lot of good one-on-one plays, driving the ball, and finding an open player,” Walker said.
The Knights would take the lead 47-46 with just over 14 minutes remaining in the game on a three-point basket from Green. The Knights were in the driver seat for the rest of the game, never giving back the lead and not allowing the Seminoles within three points for the final 12 minutes.
UCF was able to grab seven more total rebounds in the game than the Seminoles, with Adams leading both teams with eight, four coming on the offensive end. Adams’ three steals also contributed to the Noles 14 turnovers, marking the first time this season that UCF has won both the turnover and rebound battle.
“Tonight, this team had enough time to really study our strengths and weaknesses and I thought they did a good job of exploiting errors in our game that we need to continue to improve in,” Hamilton said.
UCF defeating FSU wasn’t the only first on Saturday night, as Louisville transfer Darius Perry made his debut for the Knights. Despite finishing with only six points and one steal, Dawkins said the senior guard was able to steady the Knights in the second half.
“Of course, he’s not in the type of shape he’s going to be in, of course his timing is not quite where it needs to be, but those things will come,” Dawkins said. “He was able to lead us down the stretch. He had good things to say in the huddles, good things to say to his teammates on the court, all of those things mean a lot in a game like this.”
Looking forward for the Knights, they will begin conference play on Tuesday, Dec. 22, at home against Cincinnati. Dawkins said that it is rewarding to head into conference play after picking up his fifth win against a ranked opponent as UCF head coach, especially with the victory over FSU coming in a season that has already had two games cancelled or postponed.
"We hadn't been able to play that many games. It's been hard on our guys. We had a lot of composure and I thought they played a really good basketball game against a very good team."