Heartbreak in Orlando as Rice Upsets UCF

Despite Jermaine Taylor scoring a career high 45 points, the UCF Knights couldn't complete a nearly impossible comeback, losing to the 11th place Rice Owls, 69-66.

"You have to give credit to Rice, they played a good game," Knights coach Kirk Speraw said. "We knew that they had been playing much better and we've been concerned about it and they shot the ball exceptionally well."

The Knights began the game running and gunning as Jermaine Taylor scored seven of the teams first 11 points as they began the game on an 11-4 run. Just as the 4010 fans in attendance began to feel comfortable against the 8-18 (3-9 C-USA) Rice Owls, the visitors from Houston went on a three point barrage. Rice canned six shots from long range over the next 10 minutes en route to a 16-7 run; followed by a 10-0 Rice run as the first half was coming to an end. Rice, 13 point underdogs entering the game, found themselves leading by 17 points with three minutes left in the first half.

Trailing by 17, the Knights stormed back in the final minutes as Jermaine Taylor scored 10 of UCF's last 12 points on three shots from long distance including a four-point play. The Knights closed the half on a 9-0 run to cut the halftime deficit to 43-36.

"We can't wait until we're down 17 points to pick up the pressure," Knights forward A.J. Tyler said, who finished with six points and a team high nine rebounds.

Jermaine Taylor once again led the Knights with 19 points at the half on 6-13 shooting, while Rice had a balanced scoring attack as senior guard Rodney Foster led the team with 12 points, freshman guard Connor Frizzelle scored 10 points, and sophomore center Trey Stanton added 9 points. Rice shot nearly 61% from the field, hitting 17 of 28 shots, while UCF hit on just 46.7% (14-30).

The momentum that UCF took into the halftime break apparently was left in the locker room as Rice scored eight straight points to open the half. UCF was held scoreless for nearly five minutes when Jermaine Taylor converted a tough layup and drew a foul to cut the Rice lead to 51-39. Just as the Knights appeared to get back into the game, Rice senior Rodney Foster drilled a fade away three-point shot to extend the Owls lead back to 15 points.

Whenever Jermaine Taylor would score and temporarily bring the Knights back in the game, Rodney Foster would answer with a big shot for Rice. Foster's big shots seemed to break the Knights spirit, as the Rice lead eventually swelled to 20 points.

UCF would make it interesting, as they had one last run in them, as they sliced the Rice lead to just one point as Jermaine Taylor went on a furious scoring run scoring 19 of the Knights final 21 points.

"We picked up our pressure and forced them into turnovers, and we started making things happen and it got hectic, getting loose balls and converting on them," Tyler said.

With under a minute remaining, sophomore guard Taylor Young rebounded the ball and then made a crucial error by turning the ball over. Rice took advantage of the mistake as they held the ball before Rodney Foster drove to the basket and scored a layup to extend the Rice lead to 69-66 with just 13.1 seconds remaining. Jermaine Taylor broke free for a potential game-tying three, but the shot rimmed out, and Kendrick Zondervan tipped the ball out of bounds. After a missed free throw, the Knights had one last opportunity with .9 seconds remaining, but couldn't convert a miracle shot by Taylor.

Despite the loss, Jermaine Taylor was the star of stars for UCF, as he scored a career high 45 points on 14-29 shooting. Rodney Foster led the Rice Owls with 22 points on 7-14 shooting, including 6-11 from behind the arc.

"I'm disappointed, it was good getting 45, but it would've been better to get the win," Knights star forward Jermaine Taylor said.

The Knights have now lost five out of six games and drop to 16-11 overall, and 6-7 in conference. The victory broke a three game losing streak for Rice (9-18, 4-9 C-USA), and it was their first road victory in conference play this season.

"I think we just need to stay together and toughen it up," Taylor said. "We need to win our final three games and get in the conference tournament. No matter what we do now, if we win the conference tournament we'll get in to the NCAA tournament."

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