Men's Hoops Falls at South Florida

Stats (PDF)

TAMPA, Fla. – The UCF men's basketball team was defeated by South Florida 85-72 on Saturday afternoon inside the Yuengling Center.

"It was a tough game," said UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins. "Throw the team records out the window and both teams were going to play their hearts out, and I thought they did. I thought we made some plays to make the game close and get some momentum back, but every time we did that they made another run or big play. Multiple times, it seemed that when an extra play that was made, they happened to be on the positive end of that."

After trailing 8-4, Ithiel Horton scored five consecutive points to give UCF a 9-8 lead. A Brandon Suggs bucket put UCF in front by three, which was the largest lead of the game for the Black and Gold. The Knights led for 1:38 of game time as South Florida took the lead back with 9:23 to play in the first half, going up 17-16 on a Tyler Harris three pointer.

The two sides were separated by just five points at halftime as South Florida took a 38-33 lead into the locker room. C.J. Kelly led UCF in scoring at the break, netting 13 points on four-of-seven shooting, all from beyond the three-point arc.

The Knights went on a 9-4 run out of halftime to level the game at 42-42. South Florida slowly edged its way back in front as the half progressed and found a big surge of momentum with roughly five minutes remaining. Horton had cut the deficit to 69-62 with a make in the paint after a South Florida turnover. Taylor Hendricks recorded a block on the ensuing Bulls possession, but saw South Florida recover the loose ball and bang home a three to extend the lead to 10. The next possession went the same way, as Kelly blocked one out of bounds and saw the Bulls sink another three-ball to go up 13 at 75-62 with 4:41 to go.

The Black and Gold fall to 13-6 overall and 4-3 in conference play.

Four Knights finished in double figures with Kelly scoring 18 points, Horton netting 15, Brandon Suggs getting 13 and Hendricks sinking 12 and was a rebound shy of a double-double. The UCF offense was up to par on the numbers it normally posts, scoring 72 points on Saturday while averaging 72.1 this season. The defense was uncharacteristic, averaging 63.4 points a game to opponents entering the contest and allowing 85 to its War On I-4 foes.

"I thought defensively, we didn't defend like we needed to defend," said Dawkins. "We can't give up 85 points. We scored 72 points, and any game we score that many points, we're in a position to win the ballgame. We usually give up 59 or 60 points. We were not sound like we needed to be."

The home team has won the last six meetings in the War On I-4. The Knights get another crack at the Bulls on Feb. 22 in Orlando, the penultimate home game of the season for the Black and Gold.

The Knights return home for the first time since their 107-104 double overtime victory over Memphis on Jan. 11 as the Black and Gold host top-ranked Houston on Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tipoff.

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