David DeJuluis hit a pull-up floater with 0.2 seconds remaining to give the Cincinnati Bearcats a 73-71 victory over the UCF Knights on Sunday afternoon. It was the latest in a string of spleen-rupturing close games that could, in the end, dramatically hamper the Knights’ postseason hopes.
YAHTZEE! DEJULIUS SENDS EM HOME WITH A BUZZER BEATER!@ESPNU | https://t.co/BLm7GlwPwb pic.twitter.com/SrwNEipFTI— Cincinnati Men’s Hoops (@GoBearcatsMBB) February 19, 2023
it was another classic, physical UCF-Cincinnati matchup. But despite a late rally that saw UCF scrape back from down 9 in the second half to tie the game, a combination of missed opportunities and DeJulius’ heroics spelled doom for the Knights.
Four Knights hit for double-figures, including Michael Durr, who put up a robust 15 points on 7/11 shooting in his first home game back since a hand injury forced him to miss seven conference games.
Ithiel Horton started rough, missing six of his first seven shots, but sparked the Knights’ comeback by hitting four of his last five. C. J. Kelly scored eight of his 11 points in the final for minutes, including a layup off the second of two consecutive backcourt steals to tie the game in the final minute.
But it was DeJulius, who scored 19 in the Bearcats’ win in Cincinnati earlier this season, who ended things with his dramatic shot. He finished with 16 points.
The Knights are now 15-11 overall, but 6-8 in The American and in seventh place with four regular season games to go.
Bad Luck in Close Games
This game was the Knights’ second straight loss at the horn and the tenth game this season that has either been decided by one possession in regulation or gone to overtime. In those games, UCF is now 4-6 and has lost their last three.
The five overtime games UCF has played this year are now tied with the 2006-2007 campaign for the most OT games in a single season in program history. UCF is 3-2 in OT games this year.
UCF’s One-Possession Games
|Oklahoma St.||N||37||1||W||60-56 (OT)|
What really hurts is that three of those close losses have been to Quadrant 3 teams in the NET (the fourth was the debacle at NET #160 South Florida), which have combined to all but kill UCF’s at-large chances for the NCAA Tournament.
What Happens Next?
UCF is now 58th in the NET with little hope of improving that ranking enough to sneak into the NCAA Tournament.
Only one of UCF’s last four games is against a Quadrant 2 or better opponent: the game at Temple on March 2nd, a place where UCF has won just once in school history (2021). The other three are at Tulsa and home vs. ECU and South Florida.
The objective is now to tread water enough to improve seeding in the AAC Tournament. Currently, UCF is 7th and would face 10th-place South Florida on the first day of the tournament. UCF has shown themselves to play well enough to possibly make a run at the AAC Championship, but they would have to win four games in four days to do it — not impossible, but not easy, either.
Should UCF not go the distance, then it’s likely off to the NIT, where UCF is projected to go by at least two projections. But to ensure that, UCF would still need to finish relatively strong — think 20 wins — and hope there aren’t too many NCAA Tournament bid-stealers during Championship Week.
UCF’s next game is at home on Wednesday night against South Florida in possibly the final War on I-4 game for at least a while in Men’s Basketball. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.