The Knights had grown quite accustomed to their home digs in December playing four straight home games and showed the ill effects of road life last night in a 61-60 loss to Louisiana Lafayette that never felt as close as the final score.
Road life can be a bear for athletes, especially when they have to take a commercial flight on Southwest to New Orleans and then hop on a two-hour bus ride to get to a gym where the school had failed to win in four previous attempts when both schools were a member of the Sun Belt conference for basketball. This time around, the Knights were coming in facing a school with a RPI of 223 after knocking off a much tougher Old Dominion team in Orlando, but looked nothing like the team that beat ODU last night.
The Knights shot just 44 percent from the floor as the Ragin' Cajuns played a heavy dose of match-up zone to eliminate Keith Clanton in the post and most drives to the baskets forcing the Knights to settle for outside shots that they struggled to hit all night. UCF was just 4 of 17 from behind the arc after several games of success and attempted just 13 free throws on the evening while converting just eight of them. The Knights had just as many turnovers as they did free throw attempts on the evening and had just five assists on 24 baskets as the offense only seemed to click when Louisiana-Lafayette would go back to a man defense late in both halves allowing the Knights to close the gap.
A desperation three from Tristan Spurlock beat the buzzer to lead to the final score after Marcus Jordan failed to convert a better shot which would have tied the game with six seconds left. Jordan, Clanton, and Spurlock accounted for 43 of the Knights' 60 points on the evening while Jeff Jordan went scoreless in 24 minutes of play and Isaiah Sykes played only nine minutes without attempting a field goal. Despite the lack of ball movement, the turnovers, and the long periods of struggles shooting, the Knights still had a chance to pull out an ugly win and they absolutely must improve their free throw shooting if they hope to avoid more losses like this in the future. The Knights are now shooting 61.5 percent from the free throw line on the season, which ranks 314th out of 345 Division-I teams. Compare that with the fact that UCF has taken the 23rd most free throws in the nation.
The Ragin' Cajuns were led by Kadeem Coleby who went 8 for 10 from the floor and 4 of 5 from the line to score 20 points while pulling in nine rebounds. J.J. Thomas chipped in 12 points and little-used David Perez was a dagger from behind the arc throwing in three consecutive 3-pointers toward the end of the first half and another rally-killer later in the second half.
The Knights come back home for the holidays and take the floor again on December 29th to kick off its annual Holiday Class Tournament and will face old Atlantic-Sun rival Stetson in the first contest