Knights win season finale over Rice

Taylor Young led the Knights to victory Saturday with a 14-point performance, as UCF righted its losing ways with a narrow win over Rice to help the team build momentum for the postseason. With a win against SMU, the Knights will face UTEP Thursday.

Taylor Young led the Knights to victory Saturday with a 14-point performance, as UCF righted its losing ways with a narrow win over Rice to help the team build momentum for the postseason. With a win against SMU, the Knights will face UTEP Thursday.

Isaac Babcock

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After dropping four straight conference losses heading into the final game of the season, the Knights were looking for a boost heading into the Conference USA tournament. They found it Saturday against Rice, whom the Knights dropped 66-59 on a dramatic play by A.J. Rompza.

Rompza would hammer home the deciding 3-pointer to split the scoring gap open going into the final minute of the game. But it was Taylor Young who led the Knights in scoring, with 14 points in the contest. Marcus Jordan, who has rapidly improved his scoring ability in the second half of the season, picked up 12 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the game.

The Knights shot 56.8 percent overall, one of their most accurate games all season.

The Knights had been in free fall in their final two weeks of the season, losing crucial games to C-USA opponents that could have righted their season. Had the Knights won their final five games, they would be 10-6 and tied for 5th in the conference. Instead, they dropped to 9th in that same period.

Their nail-biter win over the worst team in the conference didn't improve their standing on the C-USA ladder, as they remain 9th of 12 teams with a 14-16 overall record and 6-10 in conference play.

Their ninth seeding in the Conference USA championship put them in an uncomfortable position going into the first round against SMU at press time on Wednesday. Despite slotting just below the Mustangs in the conference rankings, the Knights were badly outmatched in the two teams' previous meeting. The Knights lost 65-43 to the Mustangs on Jan. 27.

If they make it through to the second round, the Knights could be playing again at 10 p.m. Thursday against UTEP — the conference's best team at 24-5 overall and 15-1 in the conference.