With 10 seconds remaining in overtime and UH trailing 78-75, the Cougars wanted to run a high-low pick and roll so the defense would collapse, and one of their shooters — redshirt sophomore guard Joseph Young or redshirt freshman guard Jherrod Stiggers — would get a good look at the basket.
After the play broke down, the responsibility was on freshman forward Danuel House to make a play.
Against Texas Southern, House hit a contested 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. On this night, his 3-point attempt was tipped and landed short of the rim. After UH failed to secure the rebound and a UCF free throw, the final score was 79-75. It was the Cougars’ third consecutive loss.
“Danuel House hit a shot like that against Texas Southern to put the game into overtime,” said head coach James Dickey. “I know he was trying to do what he thought he could do to help the team.”
The game didn’t have to come down to a last-second 3-pointer, but the Cougars made mistakes in regulation that allowed the Golden Knights to creep back into the game before tying it.
The Cougars led by five points with 4:19 left in the second half. In the final minutes, UH turned the ball over on three consecutive plays — each time a player stepped on the out-of-bounds line. The Cougars didn’t play smart at the end of the game, Dickey said.
“We were certainly not as cerebral as we needed to be with the ball,” Dickey said.
The Cougars’ offense stalled in the final minutes of regulation and overtime — they scored seven points in the final 7:33, including the extra period — but it was their defense that failed them. House led the Cougars with 15 points, but his counterpart, UCF junior forward Isaiah Sykes, scored 22.
The Golden Knights shot greater than 50 percent from the field in both the first and second halves. The Cougars switched schemes from a 2-3 zone to man-to-man and put on a full-court press at times, but none of those worked. Seventy-eight points is too much to give up at home and still expect to win, Dickey said. Four UCF players scored in double figures.
“At the end of the stretch, coach told us that we weren’t playing good defense. Right now, that’s our only problem. We are working as a unit the way we want,” House said. “Once we figure out how to play defense in the final 10 minutes of the game, we’ll be a good team.”
Despite senior forward Leon Gibson (12 points) scoring in double figures for the second consecutive game, the Cougars struggled handling the Golden Knights in the middle. With UCF senior forward Keith Clanton (19 points) leading the way down low, UCF outscored UH in the paint 52-36. Sophomore forward TaShawn Thomas scored 11 points and grabbed 13 boards.
After having a second-half lead in the past two games, Dickey said the Cougars need to finish and play better on the defensive end.
“The most disappointing thing for me is just defending better. A lot of times we would have really good defensive stands and couldn’t get the rebound. The tell-tale story from this game was the 50-50 ball … We seemed like we were just a step slow on getting there.”