UCF Falls Just Short Against No. 19 Villanova


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Taking on one of the nation's top programs Thursday, the UCF men's basketball team could not get the key basket it needed in a 76-68 loss to No. 19 Villanova in the quarterfinals of the Old Spice Classic at Disney's Wide World of Sports. The Knights (2-1) will now tangle with No. 18 Kansas State Friday at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.

The Knights' clash with the Wildcats (3-0) was televised live by ESPN2, which marked the first UCF regular-season game that was broadcast by the ESPN family of networks. Meanwhile, it was the Black and Gold's first loss in the month of November since Nov. 25, 2003 (College of Charleston), ending a 16-game winning streak.

"I am proud of our guys. They kept battling and fighting," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "We gave ourselves a little bit of a chance coming down the stretch, but we didn't execute and do the things we needed to do to win against a very good team."

By going 6-for-12 from 3-point land, senior Mike O'Donnell moved into sole possession of eighth place on UCF's career chart with 131 treys. He finished with a season-high and a game-high 24 points, after a 7-for-15 performance from the field. Senior Dave Noel also fell just one point shy of matching his career-high, amassing 16 points with a 5-for-11 night.

Both teams shot 43 percent for the evening, with UCF going 9-for-18 (50 percent) from 3-point land compared to Villanova's 11-for-30 clip (37 percent). The Wildcats were paced offensively by Scottie Reynolds' 19 points and Corey Fisher's 18 points.

Villanova built a 16-9 lead early in the first half, but UCF tried to claw away and cut it to 16-15 with nine minutes to play on a 3-pointer from O'Donnell.

That was as close as UCF could get to Villanova in the first half, as the Wildcats went on a 13-2 run, capped off by consecutive treys for a 31-19 cushion. The Knights did pick up some momentum near the end of the half, going on a 9-2 run themselves with all nine points coming on free throws to enter the break with a 33-28 deficit. For the opening stanza, UCF went 10-for-15 from the charity stripe, while from behind the 3-point arc Villanova was 6-for-17.

Villanova again appeared to run away with the game when the second half began, opening a 40-30 margin on the Knights. Jermaine Taylor kept the Black and Gold close with a three, followed by a pair of long-distance 3-pointers from O'Donnell, making it 43-39. After a quick timeout, O'Donnell returned with his fifth three of the night to help UCF snip at the VU margin even more, 45-42.

As the 10-minute mark approached, the action picked up dramatically and saw UCF get to within two at 52-50 on a tip-in by Stanley Billings. The Knights continued to hang around and eventually trailed by just three at 68-65 with 1:43 to play. Villanova's free throws proved to be the difference, though, as it found a way to pull out the victory.

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