Southern Miss too much to handle, Knights fall 78-65
UCF suffers first home loss of the season, drops second-consecutive game
Published: Saturday, January 28, 2012
Updated: Sunday, January 29, 2012 15:01
There's a first time for everything.
And that is just what happened on Saturday night, as the UCF Knights (15-6, 5-3) lost their first home game of the season, 78-65, to the league-leading Southern Miss Golden Eagles (19-3, 6-1).
Click here for a post-game video of Isaiah Sykes and Keith Clanton.
Not only was the home loss the first this season, it was the Knights' first home loss in 17 games, ending a 16-game winning streak that stretched back to last season.
UCF fought a long, hard battle but ultimately still came up short. Junior forward Keith Clanton led the effort for the Knights, recording a team-high 21 points. He also pulled in six rebounds and two blocks before fouling out late in the contest.
The Knights created a 12-point lead in the first half, utilizing a 2-3 zone defense that, at first, was very effective. After switching to the zone, UCF held Southern Miss scoreless for several minutes. But the Golden Eagles turned things around fast as they started hitting their perimeter shots, led by Neil Watson's 23 points and four-of-seven shooting from 3-point range, and rallied back to make it 31-30 at the half.
"[The late first-half rally] turned the game around a little; I think they got a lot of momentum off of that, but we still had the lead going on in the half time, and we usually kept our composure and play harder," Clanton said. "At the end of the day I don't think we just played to our potential."
The Southern Miss rally carried over and the Knights could not keep up in the second half, being outscored 48-34 after halftime.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes, who was limited to seven points on the night, credited the Golden Eagles' ability to overcome the Knights' early success on defense.
"They came out more aggressive and took their game to another level, and down the stretch they made plays," Sykes said.
Junior guard Marcus Jordan had another quiet game as he continues to encounter stiff defensive schemes from league opponents. He made only four-of-11 field-goal attempts, good for 11 points, and he also faced some early foul trouble that limited his minutes in the first half.
Perhaps, fortunately, UCF won't have much time to dwell on its second consecutive defeat. The Knights will play their last non-conference game on Monday against the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish at the UCF Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.