The Knights fell farther down the American Athletic Conference ladder after losing to Cincinnati and UConn, but they caught a rebound against Tulsa on Valentine’s night.
Against No. 18/17 Cincinnati (22-3, 11-1) on Feb. 8 the Knights watched the Bearcats leap out to a quick 9-0 lead that they would never relinquish, at one point swelling to a 15-point gap as the Bearcats cruised to an easy win.
The Bearcats platooned their sixth and seventh men heavily in the game as the Knights’ starting five struggled to keep up. Despite B.J. Taylor’s and Tacko Fall’s 14 points each, the Knights couldn’t get back into the game, falling 60-50.
The Knights had a much better chance at a win at home against UConn, when the game started out with a bizarre first 3:30 seeing no scores by either team. It took another 2:26 before the second basket fell, and nearly 10 minutes of game time before the first team, the Knights, broke double digits.
The Knights would lead the game by as many as 7 points before relinquishing it in favor of a Huskies blowout by the end of the first half. They spent much of the second half trying to fight their way back. Early in that half the chasm was ripped open 18 points wide. By a few minutes left, the lead was crashing down, with A.J. Davis at one point slamming home a fast break dunk as a comeback seemed inevitable for the Knights, down only 7 points with 4:21 left. With 23 seconds left, Taylor sank a layup that pulled UCF within 4 points. With 4 seconds left, after a UConn free throw, he hoisted another one to make it 3. But the battle in the paint would be lost by the Knights, despite Taylor sinking a last-second layup without a foul on him.
The game would end 66-63, with the Knights just a possession away from one of their biggest comeback wins of the season.
“I’m proud of our guys for how we kept competing,” UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said after the game. “They kept fighting.”
They would bounce back on Valentine’s Day against a weaker but still competitive Tulsa (12-13, 6-7), again on UCF’s home court. Tulsa led the game for 29 seconds before UCF’s offense exploded. A double-digit lead would wane before halftime, then gradually stretch to 21 points before the final 71-53 score was stamped for good with a Knights win.
The Knights (16-10, 7-7) return to the court a long way from home Saturday, at East Carolina (11-14, 3-9) at 4 p.m., before heading to Temple (14-12, 5-8) for a 7 p.m. tipoff next Wednesday. They finally return home for a rematch against Cincinnati at 3 p.m. Feb. 26.
UCF women’s basketball
A narrow upset of No. 22 USF Tuesday night lifted the lady Knights to 16-9 overall and 6-6 in conference play. That win came on USF’s home court, with UCF wrestling back the lead in the third quarter and stretching it to 15 points wide before almost losing it all and holding on to a 66-62 win. Aliyah Gregory dropped the last two crucial baskets herself while leading the team with 34 points and three rebounds.
The win capped a three-game streak for the Knights, who move on to host East Carolina (10-15, 1-11) at 2 p.m. Saturday, and travel to Tulane (15-10, 6-6) for an 8 p.m. tipoff next Wednesday.