In the February 5th match-up between in-state rivals, the University of South Florida Bulls guard Shemiye Mclendon made a free throw with 0.8 seconds left to give the Bulls the victory in overtime 79-78 over the University of Central Florida Knights. This time it was UCF who came up with a clutch basket late as senior guard Isaiah Sykes made a lay-up with one second left as the Bulls lost 75-74 to fall to 12-14 on the season and 3-10 in-conference.
Sykes, a 6’6 senior from Detroit MI, is someone who the Bulls will be glad to see graduate as he combined for 51 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assist in the two games this season for the Knights. On Saturday afternoon he was 11-of-24 for 27 points but no basket was bigger than the one that sealed the victory.
The Bulls, who are the worst three-point shooting team in the conference, did find some success from deep connecting on 6-of-17 attempts — including two from Corey Allen Jr. within the first five minutes of the game. Unfortunately for the Bulls offense, those were the only two shots made in five attempts by Allen Jr. who has been struggling with his shooting confidence much of the conference season.
Unlike Allen Jr., one Bulls player that has seemed to play with increasing confidence as the season has progressed is Martino Brock. On the afternoon Brock was 9-of-12 from the field including three and-1 baskets to lead the Bulls in scoring with 21 points. This was his fifth game of 15 points or more in the last seven conference games, and it appears that he has settled into his role as being 6th man spark off the bench for Head Coach Stan Heath.
While Brock and Sykes lead their teams in scoring each did have help in the boxscore.
Freshman center Justin McBride provided UCF an inside presence that was definitely missing in the first game — McBride, a 6’10 310lb center scored 13 points in only 14 minutes and displayed interior post moves and foot quickness of a player smaller in stature.
While he wasn’t able to replicate the nine point overtime surge that led the Bulls in the first match-up, Victor Rudd had another efficient game scoring 21 points on 6-of-11 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line. Unfortunately he was the one that was caught on the screen that allowed Sykes to drive basket for the winning shot.
“We’re going to have to really kinda look at maybe doing some things a little different to give ourselves a chance in that game,” said Coach Heath when asked about the upcoming rematch with the Louisville Cardinals in Kentucky. “Make sure the tempo is a little bit more in our favor, handling the pressure and handling the press — the environment… I need my seniors to show some leadership on the road for us on Tuesday.”
Having Brock and Rudd step up will be necessary in avoiding a repeat of the 86-47 blowout loss they suffered on January 22 in Tampa.