UCF Edged by Missouri Buzzer-Beater

Stats (PDF)

SUNRISE, Fla. – The UCF men's basketball team suffered a heartbreaking defeat on Saturday afternoon at the AutoNation Orange Bowl Basketball Classic, losing to Mizzou on a three-point buzzer beater for a final score of 68-66 at FLA Live Arena.

"Tough loss, tough for all of us." Said head coach Johnny Dawkins. "I feel our guys did a great job of fighting back and gave us a chance to win the basketball game. I'm so proud of them for that effort and just a tough way to go down. A guy throws in one at the buzzer from almost half court. That's basketball. We have to learn from it. I think there's a lot of teachable moments from this game, and we'll continue to get better."

The Knights started hot for the second consecutive game, beginning the game on a 10-0 run. C.J. Kelly scored the first five points of the afternoon to help in boosting UCF's early lead. The Knights held the Tigers scoreless for the first 4:33 of the contest. Missouri quickly erased the double-digit deficit, taking a 15-14 lead with 11:50 to go in the first.

The remainder of the first half was a back-and-forth affair. Missouri built as high of a lead as six points, but saw the Knights erase the advantage. Down 33-27, Ithiel Horton buried a pair of three-pointers to tie it up before C.J. Kelly made a layup and converted on the and-one chance to put UCF up 36-33. The Tigers made one final layup before the break as UCF carried a 36-35 lead into the halftime locker room. It was the eighth time this season that the Knights led at the intermission.

The Tigers started the second half with an 8-0, taking a 46-36 lead. UCF didn't score for the first 4:55 of the second half and were silent on the scoreboard for the final 2:06 of the first half, resulting in a total scoreless drought of 7:01.

Missouri led by as many as 14 in the second half, holding a 51-37 lead with 13:42 to go in the game. But just as the Knights have done all season, the Black and Gold began to battle back. Brandon Suggs converted an and one and then another pair of free throws to cut the deficit back to nine. UCF kept chipping away and pulled within five on another Suggs layup with just over eight minutes to play, cutting the score to 54-59.

The Tigers ballooned their lead back to nine at 60-51 with 6:25 left on the clock. UCF's three-pointers began to fall once again as Horton banged home a pair before Taylor Hendricks nailed a three ball to tie the game at 60-all with 4:32 to go. Missouri went on a five-point run sinking a triple and a pair of free throws with 2:29 left in the game.

UCF fought back once more as Horton sunk his sixth three-pointer of the day, collecting a team-leading total of 19 points and setting a new season-high as a Knight. The basket fell at the 2:05 mark on the clock.

After the Horton three, Missouri missed a layup, earned a steal, and missed a three-pointer to keep the Tiger lead at two. Hendricks put the Knights in front by nailing a three with 54 seconds left.

A Missouri offensive foul turned the ball back in UCF's direction with 39 seconds to go. The Knights opted to hold the ball for a shot toward the end of the shot clock. Jayhlon Young was unable to sink his three-point shot with nine seconds to go in the ballgame. Out of timeouts, Missouri scrambled up the floor to try and pull off a miracle. The Tiger ball handler slipped on the floor with four seconds to go but was somehow able to shovel the ball out to teammate near center court, where Deandre Gholston made the shot at the buzzer from the edge of the center court logo.

The game saw a heavy amount of three pointers taken and made by both sides. UCF made a season-high 13 threes on 28 attempts, resulting in a 46% mark. Missouri also made 13 three-pointers, shooting 52% from beyond the arc. Both the amount of three balls made and the percentage were season highs by a Knight opponent. The Black and Gold entered the contest with the nation's 17th best defense against the three-pointer, holding foes to just 27.3% from three-point land.

Missouri entered the contest averaging 90.4 points per game, a mark good enough for third in the country. The Knights held them to just 68 points.

All three of UCF's losses this season are by a single possession and by a combined seven points. Oddly, enough, all three of the Knights' meetings with Missouri have also been decided by a single possession and a combined total of seven points. The Black and Gold fell 62-59 in the first meeting between the two teams in 2017 before falling victim to a game-tying Missouri buzzer beater to force overtime, where the Tigers won 64-62 in 2018.

Saturday's loss was the first time this season where the Knights were leading at halftime and didn't prevail, having previously gone 7-0. UCF now falls to 2-3 in games decided by between one and five points.

The Knights return home for a two-game set. They'll host Stetson on Dec. 21 in the final non-conference opponent of the season before hosting Wichita State in the conference opener on Dec. 28. UCF's contest against the Hatters will tipoff at 7 p.m.

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