First win in 38 days helps Knights get back on track
Published: Sunday, February 13, 2011
Updated: Sunday, February 13, 2011 16:02
The ball hung in the air forever.
It was the second time in four days that an opponent had a shot to win the game as time expired.
But this time it did not go down and the Knights are finally winners again, beating Tulsa 58-57 on Saturday.
And you could just feel the exhale from nearly everyone in the Arena.
But what does it really mean, aside from the peace of mind that the Knights will not match their fourteen-game win streak in losses?
Well, it's a win and a reason for confidence for the team moving on, especially with a three-game road trip coming up. Not only that, but Tulsa came into the game having recently beat both Memphis and UTEP, two of the better teams in Conference USA.
What's interesting, though, is that the Knights probably should have won the game by double digits. UCF's shooting wasn't much improved against Tulsa, going 38 percent from the field. In fact, they actually shot the ball much better Wednesday against Memphis in a losing effort.
What was improved was the team's defense and mental toughness in going out and getting a win. They held on down the stretch, and considering an eight-game slide, that's impressive. It was a grind-it-out victory reminiscent of when UCF was winning early-season games.
Yet, you couldn't help feel down the stretch that the Knights were just a better team, and that they should have put the game away by converting a few of those buckets down the stretch.
It was a thrilling win to watch. Any last-second game usually is, but it could have been a little more. Saturday's win had the potential to be a statement game.
The Knights could have done more than beat one of the better teams in the league, they could have done so comfortably.
Yes, they won. But they allowed it to come down to the final shot after clearly being the better team all night, which is a bit concerning.
And while I'm sure no one is going to complain much about a badly needed win, it will be interesting going forward to see what this win really ends up amounting to. The Knights still have a lot of work to do, and the players and coaches would probably be the first ones to tell you that.
The Knights can beat anyone in Conference USA. It's hard to believe that if you look at their league record, but considering what's been going on in C-USA this season, perhaps not.
It's an interesting conference that likes to beat up on one another, and the Knights will get an opportunity to clear some things up about what kind of team they really are when the C-USA Tournament approaches.
At 2-8 in league play, the Knights will have a low seed, and will surely get a chance to play some of the leagues better teams.
After starting off so hot and striking up NCAA Tournament dreams that seemed thrashed during the losing streak, the Knights can now look forward to another way into the Big Dance, winning their conference.
It could happen.
Just not with 38 percent shooting.