In Incredible Game, Knights Fall to Marshall in 3OTs


Feb. 27, 2010

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By Doug Richards

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (UCFAthletics.com) - In what will go down as one of the best games in Conference USA history, the Knights refused to give up Saturday night against Marshall at the Cam Henderson Center. UCF trailed by 17 points at halftime. Final score: Marshall 121, UCF 115 in three overtimes.

In just the third triple overtime game in school history, UCF (13-15, 5-9 C-USA) battled until the final buzzer. Five Knights fouled out against the Thundering Herd (22-7, 10-4), but with some unconventional lineups on the floor, UCF did its best to give the nearly 8,000 fans at the Cam Henderson Center a night to remember.

Marshall led by seven points with 50 seconds on the clock in regulation, but UCF refused to go away. With 17 seconds left, sophomore guard A.J. Rompza (Chicago, Ill.) hit a desperation 3-pointer from the corner that cut the hosts' edge to 77-76. UCF then fouled and Damier Pitts hit two foul shots. Rompza brought the ball up the court and handed off to sophomore guard Isaac Sosa (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) who nailed a 35-footer with 1.5 seconds remaining to send the game into extra sessions.

Undermanned and undersized due to the foul outs, the Knights were forced to foul in all three overtimes, especially the final period. The hosts grabbed a 105-102 advantage with three minutes to go in the final overtime, and made 11 foul shots during the final five minutes of play to finally escape with the win.

In all three overtimes, Marshall attempted 33 foul shots, making 22, compared to UCF's 7-of-9 showing.

"There are some many things that happened in this game," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. "I am really proud of our guys for their effort against all odds. They just did a tremendous job of fighting their way back in the second half. You are on the road playing a team that has been playing exceptionally well. We were down 17 at the half and our guys dug deep and found a way. It was totally unbelievable."

Marshall led 49-32 at intermission after shooting 54.8 percent in the first half. Speraw must of inspired his team at the break as the Knights got back into the contest by utilizing a 10-2 run at the start of the second half.

Four Knights logged over 40 minutes in the contest, with Rompza registering a game-high 51. He dished out a career-best 13 assists in the game. Junior guard Taylor Young (Orlando, Fla.) hit four 3-pointers and led UCF with a career-high 23 points.

UCF's best chance to leave West Virginia with a victory came in the second overtime. With 38 seconds to play, freshman forward Keith Clanton (Orlando, Fla.), who finished with 20 points and 12 rebounds, scored on a tip-in that gave the Knights a 98-94 advantage. Leading by three with 10 seconds remaining, the Knights elected to foul Pitts instead of giving Marshall and sharpshooter Chris Lutz, who shot 6-of-11 from deep and scored 25 points, a 3-point attempt.

Pitts made his first free throw, and missed the second shot. Unfortunately for UCF, Marshall's Dago Pena grabbed the offensive rebound and laid the ball in to tie the game. Rompza's desperation attempt from halfcourt did not fall.

With Clanton, junior forward A.J. Tyler (Palm Harbor, Fla.), Rompza and seemingly a multitude of other Knights on the bench due to five fouls, UCF utilized some seldom-used reserves in the final extra session. Still, the team battled until the end.

"I am very proud of them fighting and scratching and clawing," Speraw said of his team. "We were searching for bodies."

Sosa drained six triples and finished with 20 points, and Jordan added 18 points in 45 minutes.

In 275 minutes, UCF had just 12 turnovers.

Marshall shot 59.6 percent overall for the game and went 43-of-67 at the free-throw line. The Herd's Hassan Whiteside played 47 minutes and had a triple-double with 14 points, 13 blocks and 11 rebounds.

UCF will play its regular season finale on Tuesday, hosting East Carolina at 7 p.m. at the UCF Arena.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.