UCF Misses Chance for Final Running Over the Bulls

Stats (PDF)

ORLANDO—The UCF men's basketball team has been involved in a slew of close games in 2022-23—four losses by two or one point and a fifth in overtime, plus three overtime wins, one of those in double overtime.
Visiting South Florida had done its part in that category, too, dropping seven games by four or fewer points.
Wednesday night at Addition Financial Arena wasn't one of those in what qualifies as the last scheduled meeting between War on I-4 rivals UCF and USF.
C.J. Kelly's layup at 1:27 pulled UCF within 72-71, but Ryan Conwell's three at :57 and four straight free throws and seven overall in the final 40 seconds paved the way for an 82-75 triumph by South Florida. The Knights could not connect on nine of their final 10 shots.
The home team had won the previous seven games in the series. UCF had not lost to South Florida in Orlando since 2014 and its lone previous home defeat versus the Bulls since joining the AAC was a one-point overtime loss.
South Florida (12-16, 5-10) had lost five of seven games since defeating the Knights 85-72 in Tampa on Jan. 21. The Bulls' last three losses had been by an average of 18.3 points.
Ithiel Horton set a UCF individual season high with seven three-pointers on his way to a game-high 28 points. Taylor Hendricks added 18 and Kelly 12 for the Knights.
South Florida senior guard Tyler Harris came in averaging 16.8 points, seventh in the American Athletic Conference in that category. He had 13 before fouling out with 7:33 to go. Harris' 80 three-pointers were most in the AAC--UCF held him to three Wednesday night.
Junior center Russel Tchewa, second in the AAC in rebounding (8.4), led both teams with 13. Reserve sophomore guard Selton Miguel contributed 14 points as did Conwell. Senior Keyshawn Bryant had 13 off the bench.
UCF's Michael Durr, a former player at South Florida, had five points in 25 minutes in his third contest coming off an injury that caused him to miss eight games.
South Florida proved far more effective shooting the basketball—finishing at .528 (28 of 53) compared to only .362 (21 of 58) by the Knights.
The Bulls came into action Wednesday second in the AAC in rebounding (37.26) and rebound margin (plus-3.07) and they finished with a huge 47-26 edge in that category against UCF.
"I thought their physicality wore us down," said UCF coach Johnny Dawkins. "Giving up 48 in the first half is not who we've been.
"We fought back, but we dug a hole for ourselves. They (USF) had a lot of momentum with the way they started. They shot the ball well early and got a lot of confidence.
"We've got to get back to defending the way we're capable.
"Even tonight we were right there. The game was there for the taking late."
The Bulls, second in bench points in the conference, had 41 (to eight for the Knights).
South Florida shot the ball at a scintillating pace in the opening half (.625 on 20 of 32) while building a 48-40 lead at intermission (most points allowed in any half by UCF in 2022-23).
The Knights connected on five of their first six shots for a 15-11 advantage that matched the home team's largest first-half edge. South Florida's 8-0 run gave the Bulls their first lead at 20-18 as they scored 16 of their first 22 points in the paint.
UCF hit seven of its first 11 three-point attempts on its way to a 29-27 advantage. Horton led both teams with 15 first-half points, as he hit his first four three-point attempts and scored 14 of his team's first 31 points.
South Florida scored the first six points after the break for a 54-40 advantage, UCF notched the next seven points—then USF came back with six in a row to make it 60-47.
In an interesting statistical note, with 7:33 left and USF on top 68-65, both teams in the second half had knocked down seven of 15 shots and four of nine from long distance.
The Bulls went more than five minutes without a field goal but still held a 72-67 advantage under the four-minute mark.
Defense prevailed inside the two-minute mark as the two teams combined to miss 16 of their most recent 18 field-goal attempts.
The game was tied four times and the lead changed hands on seven occasions—all of those in the first half.
In games played in regulation, South Florida managed the two highest-scoring games of the season versus UCF—with 85 points against the Knights in January and 82 Wednesday night (Houston also had 82 on Jan. 25 in Orlando).
UCF at halftime introduced 319 student-athletes who earned a 3.0 grade-point average or better during the fall semester, the 30th semester in a row with a cumulative average over the 3.0 mark (3.34) and 12th consecutive over 3.2. The volleyball team led all Knight squads with its 3.64 GPA, while golf produced a 3.47 to pace UCF men's teams. Special recognition went to 52 student-athletes who earned 4.0 GPAs last fall—including 13 rowers, nine from women's cross country and track and field, five from softball, four each from women's soccer and volleyball and 12 from the Knights' spirit squad. On hand for the introductions were UCF vice president and director of athletics Terry Mohajir, faculty athletics representative Dr. Manoj Chopra and director of academic services for student-athletes Tara Helton.
The Knights (15-12, 6-9) plays at Tulsa Sunday (5 p.m. ET on ESPNU). UCF has lost eight of its last 10 games.
UCF is 10-6 this season at Addition Financial Arena —with one home date remaining versus East Carolina (Mar. 5).

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