TAMPA (AP) — Isaiah Sykes drove through a crowd beneath the basket and scored the last of his 27 points with less than 2 seconds to go, lifting Central Florida to a 75-74 victory against South Florida in a Saturday matinee.
Sykes, who had 21 points in the second half, added five assists to help Central Florida (10-13, 2-10 American Athletic Conference) halt a nine-game losing streak and avenge a 79-78 overtime loss to visiting South Florida on Feb. 5.
Two matchups with dramatic finishes left both coaches speaking appreciatively of the opportunity to compete this season for the first time as conference rivals.
“As you can see, it’s been two great games,” UCF coach Donnie Jones said. “We were fortunate tonight that it went our way, but it’s great for the state. I think it’s great for our league as well, as both of us are trying to fit into a new league.”
Tristan Spurlock had 16 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three blocks and three assists for UCF. Justin McBride added 13 points and Staphon Blair had 12 for the Knights.
Victor Rudd had 21 points and nine rebounds for South Florida (12-14, 3-10). Martino Brock, whose desperation shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim, also scored 21 for the Bulls to match a career best.
“It was a heartbreaker. Hopefully my kids answered those questions of whether or not they were going to fight or whether they were going to battle,” said USF coach Stan Heath, whose team was coming off one of its worst performances in program history — an 83-40 loss at Connecticut on Wednesday. “They certainly did tonight. We did a lot of things well.”
Central Florida, which entered the game as the top rebounding team in the conference with a 38.9 average, was outrebounded 31-30 by South Florida. USF began the day near the bottom of the league at 35.6.
The game included seven ties and 10 lead changes, including three on the way to a 38-34 halftime edge for the Bulls.
“We had one or two stretches where they went on a little run, but we played well,” Rudd said. “We had the game won and Sykes made a great shot.”
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