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UCF to get first taste of Big 12 action vs. Kansas State

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UCF, one of four new teams in the Big 12 Conference this season, will see its first conference action Saturday night when the Knights travel to Manhattan, Kan., to face Kansas State.

Both teams will strive to get off to a good start in conference play after slogging their way through the nonconference portion of the schedule.

The two teams are closely ranked in the latest KenPom rankings, with the Knights at 76th and the Wildcats at 78th.

UCF (9-3, 0-0 Big 12) comes in on a three-game winning streak. In their most recent contest, the Knights defeated Bethune-Cookman 98-54 in Orlando.

Five Knights recorded double-digit points for the first time this season. Jaylin Sellers led the team with 19 points, followed by Marchelus Avery with 11. Darius Johnson, C.J. Walker and Antwann Jones each collected 10 points.

“It was a good team win,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game. “Coming off the holidays, I thought our preparation was really good. It’s all about trying to get better every practice and every game. That’s the mindset that we’ve taken, and our guys did a good job of that these last couple of days.”

The Knights now get a chance to write their own story about their Big 12 debut. They were picked last in the preseason coaches’ poll, but the two teams picked just above them — Oklahoma and BYU — are each 12-1 and ranked 11th and 12th in the AP poll, respectively.

Kansas State (10-3, 0-0) has struggled for consistency after losing one of its leaders from last year who was expected to make a big impact in 2023-24. Nae’Qwan Tomlin was dismissed from the team without playing a game and transferred to Memphis. Also, transfer Ques Glover was expected to add scoring punch from the guard position, but knee injuries have kept him out of the lineup and possibly could cause him to miss the entire season.

Those voids have left the Wildcats looking for answers.

In the Wildcats’ last game, Cam Carter scored 19 points to lead them past Chicago State 62-55, but the Wildcats never led by double digits against the Cougars, who are ranked No. 309 in KenPom. The Wildcats trailed 30-27 at halftime.

“We knew it was gonna be a rock fight,” Kansas State coach Jerome Tang said. “I’m proud of our nonconference (performance). (We went) 10-3 and didn’t have two guys that we thought were gonna be contributors. We just have to figure out a way.”

–Field Level Media

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