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Monday, October 2, 2023

Men's Basketball

Dotson’s career-high 31 propels Cougars past Knights

Senior guard Damyean Dotson (21) was unstoppable on Wednesday night, leading the Cougars with a career-high seven 3-pointers. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

The Cougars cruised to their third straight victory with an 82-64 drubbing of AAC rival Central Florida at Hofheniz Pavilion Wednesday night. 

Behind a career-high 31 points and seven 3-pointers from senior guard Damyean Dotson, the Cougars’ (16-7, 7-4) offense was on fire throughout, shooting over 52 percent overall. Dotson led the way, going 11-16 from the field and 7-12 from beyond the arc. 

“I try to be more aggressive in practice, everything starts in practice,” Dotson said. “Four or five games ago, Coach came to me and said ‘Dot, you have to be more aggressive. When you’re open, you have to shoot it. Don’t pass up any open shots.’”

After a disastrous performance at Southern Methodist on Jan. 21, the Cougars have been on a roll, winning three straight conference games by an average margin of 75.3-60.3.

Despite outshooting the Knights by over 10 percent in the first half, the Cougars entered the break with only a 32-30 lead. Dotson was the lone Cougar playing offensively in the first half, going 6-9 for 15 points. 

“It’s not like we weren’t trying to score, they were playing great defense,” head coach Kelvin Sampson said. “That’s the No. 1 defensive team in the country. We scored 82 points on that team tonight.”

On a night when the leading scorer, redshirt junior guard Rob Gray Jr., was struggling, having a second player able to step up and gives Houston a one-two punch that’s been sorely lacking. Gray finished the night on 5-12 shooting with 15 points despite playing 30 minutes.

In addition, the Cougars were able to get 14 points from the bench in sophomore guard Galen Robinson Jr. The Houston native finished 6-10 on the night and 1-3 from three, while providing 32 valuable minutes of playing time that kept the Cougars guard-focused, offense rested.

“Dotson doesn’t take a back seat to anybody,” Sampson said. “Gray was letting some things bother him that he shouldn’t have, so I sat him tonight. Once I sat him and got Wes (VanBeck) calmed down, then our spacing and our ball movement was really good.”

Offensively for the Knights, guard Matt Williams was the go-to guy, shooting 9-15 from the field for 26 points. Only two Knights finished with double-figure scoring as Willaims and guard B.J. Taylor combined for 45 of 64 total UCF points.

As the Cougars continue playing through AAC play and try to improve their seeding in the conference tournament, games like Wednesday nights can go a long way in preparing for postseason play. Dotson knows that this team is capable of going far, and as a senior, he knows there’s not much time left. 

“We’ve been going over four main things: focus, concentration, discipline and mental toughness. We can come back, fight, scratch and claw our way through the game. If we focus on those four things, we can overcome anything.”

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