Hard-Luck Knights Fall Again on Late-Game Play

ORLANDO—Visiting Cincinnati never trailed over the final 25 minutes of the game, but it took a floater from the lane by veteran guard David DeJulius, the last of his 16 points, with :00.2 on the clock to break a final-minute tie and hand the Bearcats a taut 73-71 men's basketball triumph over UCF.
Cincinnati parlayed its best shooting performance (.547) since the start of American Athletic Conference play into the victory Sunday afternoon at Addition Financial Arena. Both teams executed impressively down the stretch by hitting four of their final shots from the field.
The Bearcats built a 59-50 lead with 8:34 remaining, but within the next three minutes the Knights cut the margin to 61-59 on an Ithiel Horton three.
After facing a late five-point deficit, UCF forced two turnovers in the final minute. Horton connected on a pair of free throws at :41, and C.J. Kelly followed with a game-tying layup at :26.7. Cincinnati called timeout with 11.3 seconds remaining, leading to the game-winning score.
The result marked UCF's fifth loss of the season by five or fewer points—and its second in a row after a 64-63 loss Thursday at Memphis.
It marked UCF's second loss to Cincinnati in 16 days (also 73-64 Feb. 4 in Cincinnati).
"They stepped up at the end and made the plays they needed to make. We have to be stronger defensively. They got some big offensive rebounds (in the final few minutes) when they needed them the most," said UCF coach Johnny Dawkins. "We showed a lot of character to come back and tie it up."
Center Michael Durr contributed a season-high 15 points (his highest total since 11 in the season opener) to pace UCF. Taylor Hendricks and Horton each added a dozen, while Kelly had 11.
"The mood is disappointment. We can't keep losing games like this," said Durr. "We know what we need to do—we've just got to do it."
The Bearcats' leading scorer, senior Landers Nolley II, led both teams with 18 points. Forward Ody Oguama scored 15 points, fifth-year forward Kalu Ezikpe threw in 12 and senior guard Mika Adams-Woods had 10. Cincinnati starters accounted for all but two of the Bearcat points.
UCF forced a Bearcat timeout with an early 15-9 lead at 12:27 as the visitors went more than five minutes without a field goal. Cincinnati connected on four straight shots to fuel a 6-0 run and regain the advantage at 20-19 at the 8:12 mark.
The Bearcats—in the middle of the pack among AAC teams in field-goal percentage—hit shots at a .560 rate in the opening 20 minutes. UCF had only two turnovers in that first half, as Cincinnati finished with a 33-30 edge at intermission after the home team missed nine of its final 11 shots.
UCF's final lead came at 24-22 at the 6:23 mark of the first half. Cincinnati's constructed the early second-half lead at 39-32 at the 17:38 mark after a 6-0 run.
"We're a dangerous basketball team," added Dawkins. "We just have to hit our stride."
The Knights before the game honored senior guard Horton for reaching the career 1,000-point mark last month.
UCF wore its blue-trimmed space uniforms for the second consecutive home game. 
These were the top two AAC teams in three-point field goals made (both hitting more than nine per game). UCF finished with eight (the Knights had 10 at Cincinnati two weeks ago, the only double-figure total against the Bearcats this season). Cincinnati had four on 15 attempts. UCF now has made a combined 56 three-pointers in its last five games.
UCF coming into action Sunday led the league in free-throw percentage in conference games (.809). The Knights hit 11 of 16 compared to 11 for 15 by the Bearcats. Cincinnati won the rebounding battle 31-24.
The Knights (15-11, 6-8) play host to rival South Florida Wednesday (7 p.m. ET on ESPN2/ESPNU). UCF has lost seven of its last nine games.
UCF is 10-5 this season at Addition Financial Arena —with home dates remaining versus the Bulls and East Carolina (Mar. 5).
Cincinnati (18-10 overall, 9-6 AAC) had lost two of its last three (both away from home) and had not won a road game since Jan. 18 (at South Florida). The Bearcats play host to Temple Wednesday night.

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