This game wasn't like recent others: USF did not jump out to an early lead and did not play up to the level of their opponents. It was the kind of game you would expect them to play against Cincinnati or Tulsa, except that they put up much more of a fight against those teams than against UCF last night.
Corey Allen Jr. did most of the shooting, with 21 attempts from the floor, but was hindered by an ankle injury that kept him out of much of the first half. Allen Jr. returned to play the second half, but was off his game. All told, he missed fifteen shots, including six three-pointers.
This was as good as it got for the Bulls:
After that, UCF went on a 19-3 run to put it away before the end of the half.
Chris Perry has not returned to playing and Nehemias Morillo, who also missed the Cincinnati game over the weekend, is still sick. Ruben Guerrero and Jaleel Cousins play in the paint in Perry's absence and Bo Zeigler gets a lot more time on the court as well. Morillo has stepped up to be the season's top scorer after Corey Allen Jr., so the Bulls have missed him dearly on this road trip.
Jaleel Cousins is no great substitute for Chris Perry and Dinero Mercurius is no great substitute for Nehemias Morillo, so any win is hard to come by right now. Still, it feels like the Bulls gave this one away. UCF is not a tough team to beat; their only conference wins had been in OT and, despite a roster of big upperclassmen, have been approximately as bad as USF for the last two years.
The Knights were riding a six game losing streak into this game, but they played well against USF's banged-up squad. Kasey Wilson came off the bench to become the game's leading scorer with 18 points and leading rebounder with eleven. UCF freshman guard B.J. Taylor also hit three two-pointers, a three-pointer, and six free throws.
USF took 70 shots from the floor while the Knights only took 51, but both teams made 25 shots total. That makes UCF's shooting 49% and USF's just 36%. As Orlando Antigua said after the game, "You aren't going to beat too many teams shooting 49% from the floor." To compound USF's troubles, the Bulls took 21 shots from beyond the arc but only made four of them. Some of that is psychological. It's never easy to hit a three, but playing on the road with your best players injured and no wins for the last 39 days can definitely take the confidence out of your shooting.
I keep thinking that they will be better in the future for having gone through this now, and I really hope that turns out to be true. After spending the rest of the week going "back to the drawing board," as Antigua put it, USF next tries to break the losing streak this Saturday against Memphis in the Sun Dome.