The UCF men's basketball team was three games into its longest losing streak of the season at the start of the week, coming off a devastating 55-50 loss to Tulsa on Saturday night.
Thirty seconds before that moment, the Knights (10-11, 2-5) were poised to tie the game and nearly even out their Conference USA record. After the final ball dropped, the Knights held the dubious distinction of the second worst record in the 12-team conference.
Tuesday night at press time the Knights tried to bounce back against C-USA bottom dweller East Carolina.
But they were already deep in the hole with a 2-5 C-USA record, with a string of losses to close out January.
Three of those five conference losses would come on their home court, on which the Knights had only lost one game all season before conference play began.
That recent home court disadvantage couldn't have been more apparent than Saturday night, when the Knights were down by only a 3-pointer in the final minute of the game, but wild shooting and other offensive flubs threw the Golden Hurricane's defensive prowess into stark relief.
In the entire game, the Knights would average only 37.3 percent shooting, but only picked up 10 offensive rebounds. The Hurricane, on the other hand, picked up 25 defensive rebounds after Knight shots missed, taking away second chances and easily spreading the scoring gap.
Despite near-season lows in shooting in the second half of the game, Coach Kirk Speraw praised his team for its defense.
"For us to shoot 28 percent in the second half … and [Tulsa is] fighting to hang on in the second half that tells you what a good job our guys did on defense," he said.
The Knights actually out-rebounded the Hurricane on the offensive end, but with Tulsa shooting 50 percent for the game, their few missed second shots didn't factor into the score nearly as much.
Keith Clanton once again led his team in scoring, with 17 points, plus 6 rebounds. Marcus Jordan had 10 points and 5 assists, bouncing back handily from an embarrassing 0-9 outing on his home court against UTEP on Jan. 23.
The Knights substantially improved against Tulsa, whom they were facing for the second time this year. In their last meeting the Knights fell 90-70.
Aggressive C-USA defenses have proved the bane of the Knights' shooting in their three-game skid. During that time they've averaged 35 percent shooting from the floor. In their 78-71 win over Houston before the start of the streak, they'd shot more than 50 percent.
Only three of the Knights 10 wins this season have come after they made less than 50 percent of their shots.
When they've shot less than 47 percent, they've only won one game, a dismal performance against Howard on Nov. 17 in which the Knights were actually out-shot 41.5 percent to 37.9 percent, but took enough shots to win 68-59.
At 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10 the Knights tip off in Memphis (15-6, 5-2).
The Rollins Tars (16-3, 8-1) are No. 18 in the NABC Division II poll after trampling Lynn 67-62 Saturday at home. The Tars' seventh-straight win put them at the top of the Sunshine State Conference, leapfrogging Florida Southern.
That win came on another dominating performance by Myk Brown, who picked up 21 points, 12 of which came from outside the big arc. Nick Wolf was right behind with 16 points, plus 5 rebounds.
The Tars were at Palm Beach Atlantic at press time, and travel to Lakeland for a 7:30 p.m. Saturday showdown against Florida Southern.