After USF had overcome a five-point margin in the final minutes it could not get a putaway shot, leaving the door open for UCF to break its heart. Isaiah Sykes obliged, his leaning layup rolling in with 1.8 seconds for a 75-74 Knights victory at the Sun Dome Saturday afternoon.
Sykes scored 27 points for UCF, which entered just 1-10 in the American Athletic Conference and with only one road victory on the year. Victor Rudd and Martino Brock had 21 apiece for the Bulls (12-14, 3-10 AAC).
USF held an eight-point lead in the first half, with Rudd throwing down a one-handed dunk on an alley-oop to highlight the entertaining nature of the contest. But the Bulls could not keep up their offensive flow and the game was tied within a minute of the second half's start.
UCF broke ahead 67-62 with 5:45 remaining before the Bulls battled back, Josh Heath hitting his first collegiate 3 and Rudd making 7-of-8 free throws, the final two tying the score 71-all with 1:43 left. Sykes answered but then Brock's three-point play had the Bulls on top with 1:15 remaining.
The Knights turned it over on the other end but USF faltered big-time on its offensive possession. Shemiye McLendon, who only scored two points and was likely the team's last option to shoot, forced up an awkward-looking jumper that had no chance. UCF called timeout to set up its final shot.
Even after Sykes scored the Bulls nearly pulled off a buzzer-beat but Brock's 40-footer hit off the back iron.