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With No. 2 Kansas looming, UCF faces Bethune-Cookman

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UCF has a mammoth home matchup looming early in 2024, but the Knights still have one bit of business left in 2023.

In their final non-conference contest, the Knights (8-3) will host Bethune-Cookman (5-6) in Orlando, Fla., on Friday night ahead of the aforementioned bout on their home court.

That big date is Jan. 10, when No. 2 Kansas visits Orlando in the Knights’ second-ever Big 12 game.

The Knights’ conference opener will be Jan. 6 at Kansas State.

But for now, UCF’s focus is on nearby neighbor Bethune-Cookman from Daytona Beach.

Knights coach Johnny Dawkins got a great effort from guard Shemarri Allen, who went 3-for-5 from long distance with 11 points in the squad’s 69-56 win over Florida A&M before the Christmas break.

“It really opens things up for us,” Dawkins said of Allen. “He’s already a good driver and slasher. The ability to knock down the shot means guys have to cover you a little more (different) on the perimeter so you can get by and make plays.”

UCF, which has won four of its past five games, holds a 13-game winning streak over SWAC school Bethune-Cookman dating to 1996 and is 20-7 in the all-time series.

For the Wildcats (5-6), Friday’s game will feature the opener of two weekend clashes against Power Five foes — first against the Knights, then a New Year’s Eve game at the SEC’s Mississippi State.

In its most recent outing, Bethune-Cookman lost 55-54 at Chicago State on Dec. 20. Jakobi Heady scored 17 points, but the Wildcats suffered their second straight loss and fell for the fifth time in the past seven contests.

Coach Reggie Theus said his team’s slogan this season has been to be “every day” guys, something he stressed with Heady in a game earlier this season after he removed the Chicago native from a game.

“He didn’t like it,” Theus said. “But he came up to me and said, ‘Coach, my bad. Yes, you’re right.’ Unsolicited. I said, ‘I just expect you to be better all the time. I cannot let you slide for something I know you can do.'”

Added Theus, “We want to be ‘every day guys.’ To me, every day guys means (showing up) every day.”

–Field Level Media

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