Men's Hoops Falls Short of Comeback in Cincinnati

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CINCINNATI, Ohio – The UCF men's basketball team fell short of erasing a 16-point deficit in the second half, falling to Cincinnati 73-64. The Knights had tied the game at 60-60 with 2:05 to play after being down 49-33 but were unable to complete the comeback as the Black and Gold have now lost five straight.

"I thought our guys did a good job of fighting, giving us a chance to win at the end," said head coach Johnny Dawkins. "We didn't execute down the home stretch as well as we needed to."

The contest got off to a rough start as Cincinnati snagged a couple of easy turnovers and cashed in by pulling out to a 5-0 lead. The Knights answered back with five consecutive points of their own before the Bearcats added a triple to take an 8-5 lead at the first media timeout.

UCF made a run of three straight buckets to take a 12-10 lead with 11:32 left in the first. Following the ensuing media timeout, the Bearcats ripped off a 10-0 run over a span of 3:54 to jump ahead 20-12. Coming out of the timeout, UCF surrendered three more turnovers in 40 seconds as Cincinnati added four more points to extend their run to 14-0 over five minutes of gameplay. At this point, the Knights had committed nine turnovers in just under a six-minute run.

The Knights snapped their scoreless streak with a Taylor Hendricks three-pointer off a turnover to make the score 24-15. A bucket down low by Tyem Freeman made brought it back to a seven-point game. A few more scores by Cincinnati made it 30-17, putting the Bearcats on a 20-5 run over the last 10 and a half minutes. A C.J. Kelly three-pointer cut the lead down to 10, but a late foul before the break saw Cincinnati make one of two free throws to bring a 31-20 lead into the halftime locker room.

Hendricks and Kelly each had eight points in the first, accounting for 16 of UCF's 20 points at the intermission.

Darius Johnson scored the Knights' first eight points to start the second half. DJ scores all eight of UCF's points to start second half. UCF was working to get back into the ballgame but surrendered another three turnovers in a two-minute span.

The momentum sprung the Bearcats into a 16-point lead, going up 49-33. The Knights did not go away quietly as they fought back to the tune of a 12-2 run over the course of two and a half minutes. P.J. Edwards drained back-to-back three pointers while Hendricks added an emphatic dunk to make it 51-45.

The lead was cut to five with 2:52 to go as Hendricks was fouled after a Cincinnati turnover and made both free throws, making it a 60-55 contest. UCF didn't stop there as Kelly drained a three after trio of misses from the Black and Gold on the same possession. The Bearcats turned the ball over again, giving way to Hendricks who missed a three-pointer. Edwards grabbed the offensive board and went back up for a layup, netting the chance to tie things at 60 with 2:05 remaining.

After a Cincinnati timeout, the Bearcats converted on an and-one, going up by three. The Knights answered with a quick layup by Johnson at the other end to bring the opposition's lead back to one. Cincinnati's David Dejulius hit a clutch three-pointer, making it through some tight defense to go up 66-62. On the other end of the floor, Kelly was fouled beyond the three-point line, setting up three free throws. An 80.6% free throw shooter this season, Kelly uncharacteristically missed all three at the line.

Hendricks grabbed the rebound of the third missed free throw, but a held ball was called as possession went back to the Bearcats. They made a pair of free throws on their end to all but ice the game. The Knights hadn't committed a turnover over a seven-minute span up until the held ball but surrendered another two down the stretch trying to make something happen, ending the game with a season-high 24 giveaways.

"I don't have any other way to say it; we have to be sharper and have more attention to detail," said Dawkins. "They weren't forced turnovers; they were unforced or us trying to force plays. Our turnovers typically come when we force plays or actions that aren't there. And we have to recognize that and keep it simple. I thought on every one of those turnovers, we were trying to force an action that we didn't need to force."

Cincinnati netted 26 points off of turnovers while UCF finished the contest by forcing 13 Bearcat turnovers and squeezing 18 points out of those opportunities.

Hendricks finished the game with 21 points, just two shy of tying his career high which was achieved on opening night against UNC Asheville. It's the third time this season that he has scored over 20 points in a game, the other a 21-point performance against Samford. Hendricks finished with eight rebounds for the second straight game as he now averages 14.3 points and 7.2 rebounds per game.

The Knights will look to snap their five-game skid on Wednesday as they visit Wichita State for an 8:00 p.m. ET tip from Kansas. The Shockers are currently 11-11 on the season and are 4-6 in American Athletic Conference play.

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