Feb. 12, 2014
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By Andy Seeley
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF men’s basketball team hung with No. 20 Memphis Wednesday night at the FedEx Forum. But one possession proved to be the difference in the ballgame, as the Tigers (19-5, 8-3) held on for a 76-70 victory.
UCF trailed by one, 53-52, with 4:50 remaining after a Kasey Wilson dunk. But the Knights would trail by seven before they touched the ball again.
Shaq Goodwin scored for Memphis and drew a foul. His free-throw attempt was no good, but the Tigers’ Joe Jackson secured the rebound, scored and drew another foul. His free throw was no good, but David Pellom grabbed the board for the Tigers, leading to a Michael Dixon Jr. score. Memphis increased its lead from one to seven in a span of less than 20 seconds.
“We come down and foul, they miss the free throws and get those offensive rebounds and before you know it it’s an 8-0 run and we’re trying to catch up,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. “I think there were 50 second chances that really changed the momentum tonight. We’d miss a layup and they’d hit a three, or we’d give up the second chance layup. You’ve got to take advantage of those things and we didn’t.”
The momentum from that possession ended up with Memphis pushing out to a 14-point lead. As they did all night, the Knights responded to the run. UCF wouldn’t go away, trimming the deficit to six with less than a minute remaining. Memphis converted six-of-six from the free-throw line to preserve the victory.
UCF and Tristan Spurlock got off to a hot start. Spurlock scored the Knights’ first five points. Isaiah Sykes and Staphon Blair then each got into the act as the Knights took a 16-13 lead.
Memphis then threw a haymaker. The Tigers exploded for a 16-0 run over a five-minute span. With six minutes left in the half, the Tigers led 29-16 and were looking to run away and hide. But UCF responded. A 10-0 spurt from the Knights was sparked by a Sykes jumper and a Spurlock dunk, pulling the Knights back within four late in the first half. Memphis hit a buzzer-beater to take a six-point lead, 36-30, into the locker room at halftime.
“(Memphis) had a couple runs that they made against us, but we battled back and got ourselves right back in the game,” Jones said. “I’m proud of these kids. There were a lot of great efforts today from our team. I love the way they’re cheering for each other. The way they’re in the locker room talking to each other. There are things that don’t show up in the win column. We just have to get a jumpstart. I’m really proud of how these guys continue to play. “
Memphis scored to open the second half and go on top by eight. The Knights answered the bell again. A three-point play from Sykes started an 8-0 run, capped by a Blair tip-in, giving UCF its first lead since the first eight minutes of the game.
With the contest tied at 48-48 midway through the second half, the Tigers again tried to capitalize on some momentum. Chris Crawford hit a three-pointer and Goodwin scored down low to quickly put Memphis up by five. Justin McBride scored on a layup and Wilson converted the aforementioned dunk to pull UCF within one, setting up the possession that made the difference in the contest.
Spurlock finished with his third double-double of the season, scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Sykes added 14 points, while Wilson was also in double figures with 10. Joe Jackson led four Memphis players in double figures with 18 points.
UCF is back in action again Saturday afternoon, when they travel to Tampa to face USF at the Sun Dome. Tipoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.