The Knights had a rough week in conference play, but still have plenty of time to recover before the men’s basketball championship season.
UCF fell in two straight games to Conference USA foes, after going 5-1 to start conference play. In the process the formerly high-flying Knights (16-6, 5-3) dropped from first in the conference to fourth, bypassed by Tulsa and Southern Miss, who handed them their two recent losses.
Against Tulsa Jan. 25, the Knights found themselves within a point of the lead with just more than two minutes left to play in the game, but a series of fouls, turnovers and missed shots sank the Knights, who watched the Golden Hurricane slowly pull away in the final minute of the game to win 66-61.
There was no singular hero for the Knights on that fight on the court, spreading double-digit scores among three players. Keith Clanton again led the way with 15 points, 11 rebounds and four turnovers. Captain A.J. Rompza had an unusual night, picking up zero turnovers, steals or rebounds and only one assist, but dropping 11 points into the net. Rising backup forward Tristan Spurlock rained down 10 points while grabbing seven boards.
It was more frustration for the Knights on Jan. 28 as they watched a 12-point lead disintegrate rapidly heading into halftime, then watched as Southern Miss piled on a lead that would reach its peak of 13 points in the final seconds of the game. The Golden Eagles would win that game 78-65, with the Knights plagued by abysmal shooting for a second straight night, hitting 40 percent of overall shots, and only 28.6 percent of three pointers.
A big rebound in shooting and defense led the Knights to a 84-69 decimation of Palm Beach Atlantic on Monday, as they shot 47.8 percent, thanks largely to newcomer Kasey Wilson, who came out of nowhere to nearly lead the team in points with 15, hitting seven of 10 shots. Marcus Jordan led the team in points with 17.
The Knights return to the court at 3 p.m. on Saturday at SMU in Dallas before flying home for a Feb. 8 showdown against Marshall. That game tips off at 7 p.m.