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American Conference Tournament: USF wins; UCF falls

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The Central Florida Knights ended their season in a highly disappointing fashion, falling to the Tulane Green Wave 65-63 in the first round of the American Conference Tournament at the Amway Center. The Knights had multiple chances to win the game, but could not overcome 21 turnovers and 36 percent shooting.

Tulane was the 10th, and lowest, seed in the tournament, but the seventh-seeded Knights played a sloppy game that gave the Green Wave the ability to hang in the game. Central Florida won both regular season meetings by eight points, but let this one get away.

UCF fell behind by nine points with under two minutes remaining in the half and trailed 29-21 at the break. It took the Knights less than four minutes after halftime to tie the game on a three pointer by Matt Williams.

Neither team put much distance between the other,and entered the final minute with the Green Wave holding a two-point lead at 59-57. Down the stretch, Tulane made the plays and the Knights did not.

With a chance to tie in the closing seconds, A.J. Davis made UCF’s 21st and most damaging turnover that sealed their fate. Tulane was off to the second round.

“I think our guys were just a little too hyped,” said UCF Coach Donnie Jones. “Once we calmed down at halftime, I thought we came out and did exactly what we needed to, got ourself back in the game and put ourself in a situation down the stretch.”

Other than committing five turnovers, Davis had a strong game for UCF. He led the team with 20 points and 9 rebounds. Adonys Henriquez added 15.

Tulane was led by Louis Dabney with 13 points while Cameron Reynolds added 12 off the bench. The Green Wave took much better care of the ball, committing only 10 turnovers.

The second-seeded Houston Cougars awaits Tulane on Friday.

USF 71, East Carolina 66

Earlier Thursday, the USF Bulls advanced to the second round of the American Conference Tournament at the Amway Center in Orlando. The Bulls rode the strong play of Angel Nunez and Chris Perry, along with a balanced scoring attack, to beat the East Carolina Pirates 71-66.

Early on, some Bulls fans wondered if the Bulls would ever score, let alone win the game. They went the first four minutes and 13 seconds without a point, falling behind 7-0. Ruben Guerrero’s layup finally got USF on the board.
South Florida went on a 9-0 run late in the first half to take a 24-20 lead. They took a 28-27 lead into the locker room at halftime.

A jumper by Jahmal McMurray gave the Bulls their biggest lead of 51-43 with 8:34 remaining, but the Pirates were not through. They twice cut the lead to two, the last coming with 2:20 left to play on a Lance Tejada layup.
The Bulls were able to make the key plays down the stretch to secure the victory.

USF’s big men made the difference in the game. Nunez led the Bulls in scoring with 19 points, while hauling in 11 rebounds. Perry added 18 points off the bench.

“We wanted to play on the back side of the defense where we had an advantage with our length with Angel, Jaleel (Cousins), Chris Perry and Rubin,” said Bulls’ Coach Orlando Antigua. “I thought we did a good job of not settling (for jump shots).”

B.J. Tyson led the Pirates with 19 points, while Tejada had 17 off the bench. Michael Zangari contributed a double-double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

With the victory, USF improves to 8-24 on this injury-plagued season. They have a date on Friday with top seed Temple. Tip-off is 12 noon.

Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at

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