Justin McBride broke out in a big way for the UCF Knights on Sunday in Orlando during a 75-67 win over undersized Bethune-Cookman.
The sophomore center came off the bench seven minutes into the game and had his way in the low post before going on to finish with a career-high 31 points and 8 rebounds in 22 minutes of work.
“My teammates really made an effort to throw me the ball,” McBride said. “They just found me and I started scoring a little bit, and the basket got bigger and bigger.”
McBride’s previous high in points scored was 13 on two different occasions last season, against Connecticut and USF. He previously pulled down seven rebounds in a game on the road against Memphis.
On Sunday Bethune-Cookman had no answer for the 6-10, 325-pounder, who appears more doughboy than imposing, as he scored 14 points in the first half and finished the night 12 of 15 from the floor and 7 of 9 from the foul line.
“Coach has been on him really, really hard,” senior Kasey Wilson said of McBride. “For him to just mentally take it practice after practice, even in games, probably not getting the minutes he wants, he just came out and showed what he’s capable of and didn’t let it all get to him. That’s why he’s such a big part to our team.”
It seems UCF coach Donnie Jones got a glimpse at the potential of his young center, who he said afterward has suffered bouts of low confidence due to limited playing time and not knowing where he fits on the team.
McBride played more than 13 minutes in a game for just the fifth time in his 20 collegiate appearances. How he stacks up against tougher competition that awaits the Knights down the road will likely factor into how many minutes he sees in future outings.
“I was happy just to see him be aggressive and see him be assertive tonight in a basketball game,” Jones said of McBride. “I thought he had worked hard the last few days. I wanted to get him in early, try to get him going and try to get him established, and he played really well.”