Games coming down to the wire seems to be a theme for the UCF men’s basketball team this year.
Following four straight games that have been decided to seven points or less, including two games that have been decided by a point, the Knights’ (15-5, 5-2 C-USA) fell short to Tulsa, 66-61, at the Donald Reynolds Center in Oklahoma Wednesday night.
Even with all the dramatic and late-game nail biters that UCF has taken part in this season, Wednesday’s contest against the Golden Hurricane (12-9, 5-2 C-USA) may have been the oddest finish this season.
With Tulsa holding a consistent lead in a largely back-and-forth second half, UCF was able to pull within three points after a pair of Marcus Jordan free throws.
With the Knights down three points and 27.6 seconds left in regulation, A.J. Rompza missed a potentially game-tying three-pointer, but Keith Clanton was able to grab the offensive rebound, dish it to Marcus Jordan, who banked a lay-up and appeared to have been fouled for the And-1, however the refs called on offensive foul on the junior guard.
Jordan, who struggled all night long from the field, was noticeably shocked by the call and subsequently got hit with a technical foul, ultimately draining the gas from the Knights and the game unraveled from there.
Less than a minute later, Clanton was also slapped with a technical foul for arguing a call, and UCF’s night ended in frustration.
“We had an opportunity (to win),” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said in a press release from UCFAthletics.com. “We need to keep our composure. We need to be able to handle that.”
UCF had plenty of chances to seize control, but were doomed by second chance points, missed rebounds and sloppy play.
With less than two minutes remaining, Steven Idlet missed two free throws that could have given Tulsa a three-point lead. However, Joe Richard tipped in the miss and gave Tulsa a 59-56 lead. Less than a minute later, Idlet again missed a free throw, but Jordan Clarkson gave the Golden Hurricanes another offensive rebound.
Although late-game mistakes doomed the Knights, they didn’t play their best throughout the game. UCF started the game with a barrage of poor shooting, finishing the first half at 35 percent from the field only because of a late 12-4 run to finish the half.
They also turned the ball over 16 times in the game, including two crucial late-game turnovers.
Jordan shot just one-of-eight from the field in the game, finishing with just seven points in another poor shooting effort from the junior.
Clanton finished with 15 points and 11 boards for his seventh double-double of the season, but had four turnovers in the contest. Rompza chipped in 11 points, while Tristan Spurlock added 10 points and seven rebounds.
UCF was able to outrebound Tulsa 34-26, but couldn’t get the boards when they mattered most.
Scottie Haralson finished with 18 points on six-of-eight three-point shooting to lead all scorers. Haralson had nailed five shots from beyond the arc in the fist half alone.
With the loss, UCF fell out of first place in Conference-USA after Memphis and Southern Miss both picked up wins Wednesday night.
The Knights will have to put this one behind them quickly as they face a critical matchup against the Golden Eagles Saturday night at the UCF Arena.