ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — South Dakota State trimmed away at a second-half deficit, eventually taking two separate leads with less than one minute to play, but UCF responded with back-to-back field goals and a defense stop to close out an 83-80 victory for the Knights over the Jackrabbits in the Jacksonville Classic at Flagler Gymnasium on Sunday.
UCF (3-1) took its largest lead of eight points on the night when an Omar Payne dunk pushed the Knights advantage to 44-36 with 17 minutes, 6 seconds remaining in the contest. The Jackrabbits called timeout and immediately followed with a seven-point scoring run thanks to four points from Charlie Easley and a 3-pointer by Nate Barnhart.
The contest featured seven lead changes and nine tie scores as the Knights continued to maintain control in the second half after leading 32-30 at the half.
SDSU trailed 75-69 at the 2:46 mark before making a final push. Luke Appel hit a 3-pointer, then following a defensive stop, the Jackrabbit senior forward converted on two free throws to make it 75-74. A block on UCF’s next possession by Barnhart went the other way and SDSU’s Kalen Garry was followed on a 3-point attempt with 58 seconds on the clock. Garry hit two of his three attempts to give the Jackrabbits a 76-75 advantage.
The Knights and Jackrabbits then traded baskets. UCF’s Darius Johnson made a jumper, then Easley converted on a layup and was fouled to put SDSU ahead 78-77 with 29 seconds to go. His free throw attempt didn’t fall and the Knights saw Johnson make a layup of his own and get fouled on the play to go up 79-78. His free throw opportunity was missed, but UCF’s Jaylin Sellers got up for the offensive rebound and was fouled. He connected on two free throws that eventually served as the game-sealing points as the Knights went up 81-78 with less than 10 seconds left.
Following a pair of free throws by both sides, SDSU had one shot left at the buzzer from half court trailing by three, but Easley’s attempt went off the front rim and UCF claimed its third victory of the season.
- South Dakota State fell to 1-3 overall this season with the loss to UCF.
- The Knights outshot the Jackrabbits 49-44% from the floor, but SDSU had its best outing from 3-point range of the slate. The Jacks were 12-for-28 (42.9%) from deep.
- Easley led the Jackrabbits with 21 points for the second consecutive contest. Appel finished with a season-high 19 points for SDSU. Zeke Mayo scored 12 points and had a team-high eight rebounds. Barnhart recorded his personal high as a Jackrabbit in points with 11 while going 4-for-6 from the field.
- UCF had two 20-point scorers in Marchelus Avery (22) and Sellers (20). The Knights won the turnover battle by forcing 16 giveaways by the Jacks behind 12 steals. UCF had just five turnovers.
South Dakota State continues play at the Jacksonville Classic on Monday. The Jackrabbits face George Mason at 5 p.m. CT in Flagler Gymnasium.