UCF drops opening conference game to Louisville


James Tutten / Valencia Voice

UCF’s Isaiah Sykes led the Knights with 19 points and 9 rebounds in their loss to defending champion Louisville.

ORLANDO — The UCF Knights men’s basketball team struggled to keep pace with the reigning NCAA champion Louisville Cardinals, which led to a hard fought 90-65 loss on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at the CFE Arena.

Louisville players and coaching staff used this game to show that they are still a cohesive unit after all the unwanted distractions over the recent dismissal of star forward Chane Behanan.

“Give Louisville credit,” said UCF head coach Donnie Jones during the post-game interview. “Their coming in here going through some adversity a little bit and knew they’d be incredibly focused after a loss at Kentucky.”

This game was highlighted by talented players from Louisville, with teamwork and clutch scoring that grabbed an early lead over UCF and never relinquished it.

Louisville’s Russ Smith shined with 24 points, including three consecutive 3-pointers to begin the second half of the game. Luke Hancock’s 16 points and 15 points scored by Montrezl Harrell rounded out the top three scorers for the Cardinals.

UCF players were kept at bay throughout the game as Louisville set the pace and maintained control on both ends of the court. Only a small comeback near the end of the first half threaten to turn around this game, but was strongly dampened by a strong return by Louisville in the second half.

UCF guard Isaiah Sykes lead his team with 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 assists, but lacked the ability to create headway alone with no other Knight players scoring over 10 points.

“Every possession matters, I don’t think no team in this conference will be able to take plays off,” said Sykes after the game.

UCF now plans to watch game footage from this loss to learn what they can to prepare for their next home game, which is a conference challenge against the Temple Owls on Saturday.

Tip-off against Temple is set for 4 p.m. EST at the CFE Arena on the UCF campus.