Men's Hoops Drops Heartbreaker 64-63 in Memphis

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MEMPHIS – The UCF men's basketball team fought from 15 points down in the second half, but couldn't complete the comeback as Memphis earned a late steal and bucket to break the Knights' hearts in a 64-63 final.

"Definitely a tough loss," said head coach Johnny Dawkins. "It was tough in the locker room as you can imagine. We put ourselves in position to win and to have it end that way is difficult. We have to learn from it."

The game did not start in an ideal manner as the Knights went down 19-4 over the first 9:17 of game play. The Black and Gold missed their first 10 shots from the field before an Ithiel Horton three-pointer made it 10-4. UCF was able to whittle the deficit from 15 down to four as Darius Johnson made a three to make it 29-25 with five and half minutes to go in the first half.

Memphis built its lead back up to nine before the halftime buzzer sounded, leading UCF by a count of 44-35. The Tigers shot 62.5% from the field in the first while the Knights shot at a 35.3% clip.
The Black and Gold saw themselves down by 15 again quickly into the second half as Memphis went up 50-35 just two minutes in.

UCF mounted a 15-10 run over the next 7:13 of gameplay to bring it back within nine at 60-51. A minute and a half later, Jayhlon Young nailed a triple to pull the Knights within six. C.J. Kelly sunk a pair of free throws another minute and a half later, and all of a sudden it was a four-point game with 7:22 to play.

The Knights' defense played a tremendous role in helping mount the comeback. Memphis turned the ball over eight times in the first half and saw UCF's defense double that in the second, forcing 16 turnovers.

Memphis made a layup with 5:47 to go to make it 62-56, and then the Knight comeback was on. Two Tiger turnovers and a missed shot led to a Johnson three ball, cutting the deficit to three. Another Memphis turnover immediately led to two more UCF points as Brandon Suggs sunk a fastbreak layup to make it 62-61.

The Knights took their first and only lead of the game after yet another Tiger giveaway led to a chance for UCF. Taylor Hendricks was fouled in the act of shooting and sunk both of his free throws from the charity stripe, putting the Black and Gold in front with 3:10 to play.

UCF's defense was suffocating in the final minutes of the game. Before the final horn had sounded, the Knights forced four more turnovers. They were unable to turn them into points, missing their next four shots and turning the ball over once.

The Knights earned a steal with 27 seconds left. With the shot clock turned off, the Black and Gold advanced the ball to half court, where they proceeded to turn it over in an attempt to get it in the hands of a high free throw percentage shooter. Memphis snatched the ball and laid it up and in at the other end with seven second on the clock. Out of timeouts, UCF rushed up the floor to try and get a buzzer beating bucket, but couldn't sink it on a driving layup, sealing the Memphis victory at 64-63. Prior to the game-winning layup, Memphis hadn't scored a point in 5:40 of gameplay.

UCF forced a season high 24 turnovers, while turning it over 15 times, including just five in the second half. The Knights cashed in with 32 of their 63 points coming via turnovers while Memphis was able to earn just 10 points from Knight turnovers. Hendricks led all scorers with 17 points while Johnson scored 12, Suggs tallied 11 and Young gathered 10. Young was +22 while on the floor on Thursday night.

The Knights return home to host Cincinnati for a noon tip on Sunday inside Addition Financial Arena.

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