It was a rough situation for the UCF Knights heading into this quarterfinal matchup against the Memphis Tigers in the American Athletic Conference tournament. While the Knights managed to eliminate their rivals in the USF Bulls Thursday night, they needed to push far into the tournament to try and get back on a clear path to postseason play. To make matters worse, they had to do it with guard Brandon Mahan limited by injury and forward Isiah Adams still in a walking boot.
Unfortunately for UCF fans, they fell short losing 85-69.
First Half Comeback
Head coach Anfernee Hardaway had a game plan that leaped his Memphis squad to a 21-point lead within the first 8 minutes. Center Jalen Duren was the focal point of that effort by the Tigers to physically overwhelm the Knights as he recorded 10 points and eight boards in the opening half. To add some balance, guard Lester Quinones launched 10 points going 4-of-4 from the field before heading into the locker room.
It seemed all but lost for Knight fans early, but suddenly UCF showed signs of life scoring 29 points in 12:00 minutes of play.
Veteran point guard Darius Perry was the tip of the comeback spear with eight points in the half. But it was bench players that did their part bringing UCF back to a score of 41-31.
Guard Dre Fuller and center Jamille Reynolds each poured in six points before the break. Fuller would record one of his best games of the season with 14 hitting his first four three-point attempts of the night taking advantage of Memphis’ seven turnovers up to that point.
The Tigers Stop the Knights Charge
As the second half began, UCF closed the lead to two points with buckets beyond the arc from Perry and Fuller. That would be the closest their squad would get to gaining a lead in the contest. Perry closed with the squad's best stat line dropping 23 points and seven assists.
Duren and Quinones continued to light up the scoreboard to pull their squad away. Quinones was good for a career-high 22 points that featured five three-pointers. Not to be outdone, Duren finished with 21 points of his own with a career-high 21 rebounds that was also a single-game AAC conference tournament record. The big man was even good for an alley-oop assist to forward DeAndre Williams who finished with 14.
Likely the End . . .
After losing their final two regular-season games, UCF’s quarterfinal exit may not carry enough weight for play in a non-conference tournament. It can be objectively said that there are too many missed opportunities such as the losses to USF in Tampa or the home loss to Temple
While it obviously would have been better for head coach Johnny Dawkins to pay tribute to Perry in a win, Dawkins did mention that Friday night was a fine performance for him to end his career as a Knight.