UCF mens basketball fans finally have something to feel good about after more than a month of agony: a roller coaster ride. After plunging off a cliff and remaining in free-fall for eight straight games from Jan. 8 to Feb. 9, the Knights finally hit bottom and started their way back up. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be a bumpy ride.
It began Feb. 12, when the Knights snapped their streak against Tulsa, electrifying the crowd with a 58-57 nail-biter win. It all came on a missed 3-point attempt by Tulsa’s Scottie Haralson that would have sealed the deal for Tulsa.
That miss sent the Knights’ fans into a frenzy, after so long suffering defeat.
“It’s been a long time,” Coach Donnie Jones said with a hint of a smile after the game. “I’m happy…to find a way to get a victory.”
Some may have called that game a fluke, after the Knights were plagued by the same poor shooting that had characterized nearly all of their losses. They hit only 37.7 percent of their shots that night.
Since then, the Knights have picked up two more wins in the past week and a half, with a loss to Conference-USA’s second best team, UAB, peppered in.
And with that run, they’ve regained some of the momentum they lost earlier in the season. In a road win over Tulane, they shot 47.7 percent from the floor, with four Knights entering double-digit points. At UTEP in El Paso Monday night, the Knights hammered home 47.9 percent of their shots, with three players hitting double-digit points.
Along the way, Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton have paced the team in shooting, routinely scoring a dozen points or more, while maintaining a relentless push on defense.
With their final three games of the regular season closing in fast, the Knights have three more chances to nearly even out their conference record.
But along the way they’ll face a Southern Miss team that tops the conference and has already beaten the Knights 86-69 earlier in the season — the Knights’ biggest loss all season.
That game starts at 7 p.m. Saturday night. March 2 they face SMU for their final home game before taking off to Marshall March 5 to close out the season.
The Tars continue to dominate their Sunshine State Conference competition with a 21-5 overall record and 12-2 in the SSC.
But their 12-game winning streak — their longest of the season — was just snapped by Florida Southern in dramatic fashion. On Feb. 19 the Tars traveled to Lakeland to face the Moccasins, who are second in the conference.
The game started out even, with the Tars keeping pace. By halftime, the game was still nearly knotted at 31-30 with the Moccasins in the lead, but the Tars fell behind in the second half, despite out-playing the Mocs in almost every category. The Tars’ Achilles heel: 3-pointers. In the game, they would take 18 shots from beyond the big arc. They hit only three of them. Meanwhile, the Moccasins buried 12 to put the Tars away 75-67.
The Tars faced conference rival Florida Tech after press time on Wednesday. They’ll end the season at home against Lynn at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26. After that, the SSC Tournament awaits.