Horton Scores 1,000th Career Point in Knights' Loss to Houston

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ORLANDO – An impressive personal accomplishment, a tight battle with a top three team in the nation, and the return of a program legend kept a packed house of 9,383 fans buzzing with excitement throughout the evening, but in the end the combination was not quite enough for an historic home upset. The attendance marked the fourth largest in program history.
For the second time in as many matchups, the UCF men's basketball team hung with the No. 3 Houston Cougars for most of the game, but a late Houston surge built on offensive rebounding eventually did the Knights in, as UCF fell by an 82-71 final score at Addition Financial Arena Wednesday evening.
"It was a tough game. I thought our guys fought and played their hearts out," said head coach Johnny Dawkins. "I think Houston just made a lot of plays they needed to make. They made late-clock possession plays, tough shots. To beat a team like that, you have to do things better."
A glaring 16 offensive rebounds stood out to Dawkins and his team alike following the game's final buzzer, as the Knights (13-7, 4-4 AAC) in their 11-point defeat surrendered 16 second-chance points.
"I feel like we get hurt on the second-chance opportunities," said senior guard Ithiel Horton, who scored the 1,000th point of his collegiate career in the loss. "I feel like our first-shot defense is actually good for the most part. I think that when they keep getting the rebound, getting the ball, that kind of defeats you inside."
As the Knights did in their New Year's Eve matchup with the Cougars (19-2, 7-1 AAC) in Houston, UCF battled their ranked opponent hard throughout the first 20 minutes. Freshman phenom Taylor Hendricks energized the near-sold out crowd just seconds into the evening's affairs with a 3-point shot on his first try from beyond the arc, and Horton followed with five quick points, including his first triple of the night, to give UCF an early 8-2 lead.
The Cougars came right back with a counterpunch to the tune of a 19-4 run that put the visitors ahead 21-12 approaching the halfway point of the first 20 minutes, but the Knights' resiliency again proved key in keeping UCF close.
C.J. Kelly drained the Knights' third triple of the game to ignite a 13-8 UCF stretch, and after a media timeout recognition of NBA and former Knights center Tacko Fall who made an appearance on his old stomping grounds, UCF continued to battle back.
Hendricks added five more points, including his second make from beyond the arc, and five more courtesy of Horton pulled the Knights to within four points, 29-25, with under eight minutes on the clock.
Hendricks later nailed a pair of tries from the free throw line with five and a half minutes to play and Horton knocked down his second 3-pointer and UCF's fifth of the half before Lahat Thioune tipped a missed free throw in at the buzzer to keep the Knights well within range at halftime, trailing 38-34.
The two programs traded blows throughout the opening minutes of the second half, as Kelly and Horton combined for three triples, the second of which from Horton clinched his 1,000th career point.
The Knights offense started to sputter down the stretch, though, as UCF mustered just three field goals and eight free throws in seven minutes of gametime while Houston regained control of the evening tilt.
"I think Taylor picking up his fourth [foul] hurt us," Dawkins continued. "We lost him during part of that time, and that didn't help us, because he was playing well and they were battling back and forth. And then of course we cut it to five [points], and then a guy throws in how many last-second shots did they throw in, where guys were hitting late-shot-clock shots? We have to be better where those shots don't affect us as much."
Despite the defeat, the Knights have remained consistent winners throughout Dawkins' tenure at the helm, as UCF falls just to 80-24 at Addition Financial Arena in that time.
Hendricks, who recorded 17 points as well as his 13th straight game with at least one block, also notched his seventh straight game with double-digit scoring and has notched at least 10 points in 17 of his 20 games this season. Horton tallied a team-leading 18 points, marking his highest output since his 30-point showing against Memphis Jan. 11, and Kelly joined them in double-digit scoring with 11 points.

The Knights will look to bounce back against Temple Saturday afternoon, with tipoff from Addition Financial Arena slated for 12 p.m.