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After close loss, UCF ready to reset against Maine


After narrowly losing to one of the nation’s few unbeaten teams, UCF will hope to get back to winning when it faces Maine on Monday night in Orlando, Fla.

There’s a strong chance that Darius Johnson will be a problem for the visiting Black Bears.

Twice this season, Johnson has tallied 25 points — scoring a career high against Charlotte on Nov. 20 and matching it in a wild 70-68 loss last Sunday to still-unbeaten Ole Miss.

UCF (6-3) had a sudden opportunity at the end of regulation when Johnson deflected an inbounds pass under the Knights’ hoop with just 2.2 seconds left.

But Jaylin Sellers’ layup was rejected, and a successful putback by Marchelus Avery banked in after the buzzer.

Johnson, a sophomore guard, created the havoc underneath his team’s basket by racing at Ole Miss’ Allen Flanigan on the inbounds pass.

He said the effort against the Southeastern Conference team could go a long way.

“They’re an undefeated team and have been playing a lot of competition this year and will be a top-25 team,” said Johnson, who averages 14.7 points and 3.6 assists per game. “We showed we can compete with them. That shows how we can be this season.”

Sellers tops the Big 12 team with 19.6 points per outing.

The Black Bears (8-4) of the America East Conference have won four straight games since losing 75-56 at Columbia on Nov. 25.

Following that defeat, Maine has crafted double-digit wins in three of the four victories, including last Saturday’s 69-56 decision over visiting Central Connecticut.

For the first time since the 2003-04 season, the Black Bears are 8-4 — just the second time they have done so this century.

Point guard Jaden Clayton pointed to his squad’s defense as being key to the good start.

“We’re playing really good basketball — our start is honestly not a surprise to us,” Clayton said. “We’re guarding the hell out of the ball, and the world’s finally seeing what Maine’s about.”

Added leading scorer Kellen Tynes (14.3 per game), “I think we’re prepared (for the upcoming schedule) — we’re ready for it. We’re excited.”

–Field Level Media

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