UCF basketball recap: Knights Clinch Second Place In Conference USA After Overtime Truimph Over Houston
CUSA Fans UCF Correspondent Ryan Westin brings the latest update on the UCF Golden Knights basketball team.
After an electric crowd charged the already amped up Knights back into the game early in the second half, UCF was able to pull off an incredible win over Houston, 75-72, to clinch second place in Conference USA and a number two seed in the upcoming Conference USA basketball tournament. This game was absolutely one of the best games I have seen in the UCF Arena and goes down as a school record for largest crowd at which UCF won.
UCF students put their hands up as the Knights shot from the line. The Knights were able to lock up second place in the conference with the victory in their second year in C-USA.
Mike O'Donnell nailed a clutch three that flushed around the rim and in with 28 seconds to go in overtime to give the Knights a two point advantage down the stretch. After Houston's Dion Dowell missed a three, Josh Peppers rebounded and made two free throws after a quick Houston foul. Houston pressed it up the floor and Robert McKiver drew a foul and made his two free throws to close the lead back down to two.
Chip Cartwright, a Houston native, was fouled before the Knights could inbound the ball and missed the first of the double bonus, but made the second to put UCF up by three with 4 tics left in the game. McKiver got the inbound pass and shot a running three at the buzzer that hit of the left side of the back board to give the Knights the victory. McKiver was 5-14 from three in this match-up and ended the game with 25 points to lead the Cougars.
In the second half, UCF was down by 3 to start the second stanza. The Knights however built off of the 4,090 in attendance and went on a 8-0 to put the Knights up 40-37 four minutes into the half. The two squads were constantly swapping the lead and tying the game up the rest of the half.
With 46 seconds to go in the second half and the score tied at 59, Josh Peppers knocked down two free throws to put the Knights up by two. Robert McKiver answered with two from the charity stripe at the other end to tie the contest again with 27 seconds left and the shot clock was dead. UCF inbounded the ball and did not give up a turnover to the Cougars fierce pressure and called a timeout to make sure the Knights were all on the same page. Robert McKiver fouled Dave Noel with 11 seconds left and Noel came through to knocked both of them down and give the Knights a two point advantage and the pressure on Houston.
The Knights defense at the other end had a miscue as the UCF defense left Jamar Thorpe wide open in the lane for an easy equalizing dunk. UCF's hail mary down court with 1.9 seconds in the half was defended well be Houston and the match went on to overtime.
Who Wants Some? MOD Does!
Mike O'Donnell had 10 points in the contest and was 2-6 from behind the arc including his clutch three from the left side of the arc that rimmed in to give the Knights the lead for good. After the three by O'Donnell while Josh Peppers was about to shot his free throws, O'Donnell could barely control his emotions as he went trotting over while screaming to the student sections waving his hands in the air after hitting his clutch game-winning three.
The Knights came into this game with a chip on their shoulders and left the game with a Chip on their shoulders. Chip Cartwright is lifted by his teammates in the stands as the Knights celebrate their victory over Houston in overtime.
Hot and Cold
Houston's three point attack was unstoppable in the first half as the Cougars were able to connect on seven of their nineteen three point attempts. The Knights defense was able to contest Houston on their threes the rest of the way as they were held to just three of eighteen the rest of the game.
UCF shot 51 percent from the field and was able to knock down 40 percent of the attempts from downtown. Five Knights were in double figures in the contest as Jermaine Taylor led the way with 20 points from the bench. UCF was able to out rebound Houston by 12 boards as they held the advantage 40-28. Houston was able to steal the ball eighteen times as the Knights seemed to try and rush a little to much in the game at times and turned the ball over twenty six times.
One more game in the UCF Arena, one more senior night, one more time the Knights will call the UCF Arena home as the Knights move next door to the Convocation Center next season. Here is to all the memories and magical moments that have happened on that court and to all the firsts that will happen next year next door.
Who's Next? Who Knows?
The Knights have locked up the two seed in the Conference USA tournament and now will face the the winner of the seven seed/ten seed. Right now in the standings that could be just about anyone as six teams are seperated by one game at 8-7 or 7-8 with UTEP close behind with a record of 6-9. Who ever it will be, the Knights look like they have much more energy going into the tournament than last year when they were blown out of the second round by Houston. Even Head Coach Kirk Speraw turned around to the crowd with under four minutes to go in the second half as he started yelling at the crowd with fire in his eyes and waving his arms in the air to turn up the volume in arena and the pressure on the Cougars. Whoever the Knights play in the tournament needs to come prepared as this is definetley not the same 7-7 squad from last year, and judging by the Knights demeanor this is a squad that definately wants to do well and return to the NCAA tournament.