Feb. 20, 2010
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By Doug Richards
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (UCFAthletics.com) - Since February began, UCF had been playing its best basketball of the season, winning three of four contests. For the first 30 minutes Saturday against Southern Miss at Reed Green Coliseum, that trend continued.
The Knights knocked down shots, shared the ball and played solid defense.
Unfortunately for UCF, those elements disappeared in the final 10 minutes of the contest as Southern miss rallied for a 68-58 victory.
UCF (13-13, 5-7 C-USA) led by 16 points with just over 10 minutes to play in the second half, but the young Knights could not close out the game. Southern Miss, who improved to 16-10 overall and 6-6 in the league, used a 19-2 run to take the lead and post the win.
The Golden Eagles took their first lead since early in the contest at the 5:11 mark when Angelo Johnson, who finished with a game-high 24 points, drained a 3-pointer. UCF soon tied the game at 53 when junior guard Taylor Young (Orlando, Fla.) made two foul shots, but Gary Flowers answered for the hosts with a jumper. The Knights then missed a shot and committed a turnover on their following two possessions.
"I am disappointed for our guys. We did an awful lot of good things in the ballgame against a team that is playing with a lot of confidence," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. "It came down to the end and they start making a run at us and we lost our composure. They made shots, and we didn't. Give them credit. I thought that Flowers made some tough buckets."
UCF took a 31-22 edge into the break after freshman guard Marcus Jordan (Chicago, Ill.) grabbed an offensive rebound and scored at the end of the first half. The Knights shot 63.2 percent overall in the opening period, and continued their strong play to start the second half.
A jumper from sophomore guard A.J. Rompza (Chicago, Ill.) gave the squad a 14-point edge eight minutes into the second session, and then Jordan was fouled while attempting a triple and knocked down all three free throws at the 10:48 mark to hand UCF a 48-32 lead.
"I thought we did an outstanding job offensively and defensively for a long stretch of the ballgame," Speraw said. "There are an awful lot of positive signs (from this game), playing a tough team in a tough environment. We just didn't make enough plays going down the stretch."
UCF cut the Southern Miss lead to two points with 1:26 remaining in the game when freshman forward Keith Clanton (Orlando, Fla.) made a foul shot, but Flowers again scored on the ensuing possession. He finished with 16 points and a game-high seven boards.
The Knights were playing a road Saturday contest for the first time since Jan. 16.
Southern Miss shot 50.0 percent after intermission and forced 11 UCF turnovers in the second half.
Sophomore guard Isaac Sosa (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) led UCF with 14 points. He hit three 3-pointers, all in the first half. Jordan added 12 points, and junior forward A.J. Tyler (Palm Harbor, Fla.) totaled 13 points.
Up next for the Knights is a home contest Wednesday with UAB at 7 p.m. at the UCF Arena.
For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.