(Photo credit: Kylie Graham-USA TODAY Sports)
UCF coach Johnny Dawkins is seeking a repeat of the intensity his Knights displayed in Thursday's rout of Cal State-Fullerton when they take on South Dakota State Sunday night in a first-round game in the Jacksonville Classic in nearby St. Augustine, Fla.
The eight-team tournament started in 2021 and crowns two champions out of two brackets.
The Knights (2-1) have been placed in the Coast Bracket with the Jackrabbits (1-2), George Mason (3-0), and Charlotte (2-1).
Competing in the Bay Bracket will be Cornell (3-1), Cal State-Fullerton (1-2), Southern Mississippi (2-1), and Utah Valley (2-1).
Dawkins said he challenged his Knights to raise their defensive performance following an 88-72 loss at No. 13 Miami, and they responded by holding Cal State-Fullerton to just 23.5 percent shooting in the 72-44 win.
"It was a really good game by our guys," Dawkins said. "I challenged them about taking care of the basketball in both areas that we worked on this week, and I saw improvement.
"That's what you want to see this time of year, is getting better in the areas in which you know you have to make improvements."
Ball State transfer Jaylin Sellers scored only 15 points, but is averaging a team-best 20 points a game through three outings.
Rated the preseason favorite to capture the Summit League title, South Dakota State is coming off a 91-68 loss at Kansas State as it heads to St. Augustine.
"It's going to be fun, it's going to be challenging, I know that," coach Eric Henderson said via the SDSU Collegian student newspaper.
Preseason conference Player of the Year Zeke Mayo leads the Jackrabbits in scoring with a 22.3 average, but struggled at Kansas State with only 11 points on 5-of-13-shooting.
-Field Level Media