Knights fall to Bulls, snaps three game win streak

UCF guard Isiah Sykes creating a play against the USF Bulls.

Courtesy of UCF Athletics

UCF guard Isiah Sykes creating a play against the USF Bulls.

Keith Clanton had 18 points and 14 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the University of South Florida Bulls beat the University of Central Florida Knights 65-56 on Wednesday, Jan. 2 at the UCF Arena.

The game was the second matchup of the season between the two cross-state rivals, with UCF winning the first game in Tampa earlier in the season.

“It’s starting off to be a pretty nice little match up between our two programs,” said USF head coach Stan Heath on the rivalry. “Hopefully that will continue, and continue to draw a lot of interest.”

Jawanza Poland put the Bulls on the scoreboard first with a three-pointer, while he was on his way to an 18 point game.

The Bulls started the game by going on a 10-6 run during the first 5:36 minutes of play.

The Knights cut the Bulls’ lead to 10-12 when Tristan Spurlock dunked the ball with 10:40 remaining in the first half. Spurlock was given a technical foul after the play, allowing USF guard Anthony Collins to make one-of-two free throws to put the Bulls up 13-10.

UCF took its first lead of the night when Keith Clanton hit a three-pointer with 6:20 remaining in the first half to give the Knights a 21-19 lead over the Bulls.

The Knights went on a 13-0 run with 8:30 remaining to give them a 25-19 lead before Heath called a timeout with four minutes left in the first half.

Musa Abdul-Aleem hit back-to-back threes to cut the Knights’ lead to 27-25 with 1:07 left.

“We were very fortunate,” said Heath following the game. “We got off to a great start and closed the half extremely well when we went into a drought.”

Three consecutive three-pointers by the Bulls put them on a 9-0 run to finish the first half, and gave them a 28-27 lead going into halftime.

“Those were huge going into halftime,” said USF forward Toarlyn Fitzpatrick. “That’s a nine point swing, without those three point baskets we’re going into halftime down nine instead of up one, so those are huge.”

At halftime Bulls guard Anthony Collins had played a role in 10 out of 12 USF baskets.

““I just think we have to play with more energy,” said UCF forward Clanton. “We gave up the lead that we had right away, and we let them hit those three 3’s.”

USF started the second half on another 10-4 run, to jump out to a 38-31 lead with 16:18 left to play in the second half, before head coach Donnie Jones called a timeout for UCF.

Kasey Wilson made a three-pointer with 14:55 remaining in the second half, to cut the USF lead to 38-34.

The Bulls responded to the three by going on a 9-0 run to extend their lead to 47-34, giving USF its biggest lead of the night at 13.

The Knights went on a 17-6 run to cut the USF lead to 53-51 with 3:45 remaining in the game.

Isaiah Sykes made one-of-two free throws with 2:29 left to tie the game at 53-53,

USF led 54-53 when Fitzpatrick hit a three-pointer with 1:09 left to play to give the Bulls a 57-53 lead.

“The three point shot has been probably our best weapon offensively this year,” said Heath. “Our field goal shooting is not great, but the three-point shooting is very good.”

Anthony Collins made six free throws in the final minute of the game to extend USF’s lead to 65-55.

The Tampa team ended the game going on a 11-4 run, as they improved to 9-3 on the season. The Bulls will begin Big East play next when they host Syracuse Sunday, Jan. 6 in Tampa.

“It was a game of runs,” said Jones following the game. “Give them credit, that was a team with four or five starters back from last year’s team that was one of the top two defensive teams in the country field goal percentage wise.”

With the loss UCF falls to 9-4 this season. The Knights finished the season 1-1 against the in-state Bulls of USF.

The Knights’ next game is at home against the Florida A&M Rattlers on Jan. 5 at 4 p.m.