Team advances to NCAA tournament
The Tars put some cherries on their season ending win streak sundae with a rout of three straight teams to take the Sunshine State Conference Championship from Palm Beach Atlantic.
The 71-70 shocker win came when Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year Connor McKim landed a three-pointer with just 3.1 seconds on the clock to down PBA. That capped an unlikely comeback that saw the Tars erase a 10-point second half deficit that was 6 points wide with just a minute and a half to go.
That win helped earn Jeff Merton a career high note, with the Tournament MVP posting a career game with 19 points and 12 rebounds to help the Tars to the win.
The Tars now move on to the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament with a trip to Huntsville, Ala. and a 3:30 p.m. tipoff Saturday against Valdosta State.
Rollins women’s basketball
A 12-game regular season-ending winning streak came to a dramatic halt when the Tars were upset 73-70 in the first round of the SSC Tournament by Florida Tech. The loss of the No. 3 Tars to No. 6 Panthers was the biggest upset of the tournament.
Thankfully for the Tars the season goes on with a trip to the NCAA Division II South Region Tournament in St. Petersburg. Their first game, against Florida Southern, starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
UCF men’s basketball
The Knights earned their fifth straight win when they barely escaped from a listless USF with a 59-56 win March 2. Coming on the heels of a shock upset of No. 15 Cincinnati a game before, the Knights nearly succumbed to the team with the worst record in the American Athletic Conference.
The Bulls (7-22, 1-17) leapt out to a surprising 29-27 lead in the first half, as the Knights shot just 35 percent despite draining half of their three-pointers. At one point in the half the Bulls had pulled out an eight-point lead before slowly getting reeled back in before halftime.
With weak shooting plaguing them throughout the game, the Knights let the Bulls hold onto the lead for nearly the entire 40 minutes, only wresting it back with 1:30 left to play. That would be all the Knights would need, as B.J. Taylor and A.J. Davis sank the last few shots to seal it.
In that defensive struggle Matt Williams led the Knights (20-10, 11-7) with 11 points. As a team UCF only combined for 16 rebounds in the game.
A few days later the Knights learned that Tacko Fall, their towering center, was the AAC’s Defensive Player of the Year, a consequence of his being in the top three players in blocks and rebounds per game.
Coming up for the Knights, it’s a shot at the AAC title in Hartford, Conn. The Knights will face Memphis in the first round, set for 2 p.m. Friday, March 10. The first time the Knights played the Tigers this season on Jan. 22, they lost 70-65. The next time, on Feb. 4, they blew them out 72-57. This week’s game will be televised on ESPN2.
UCF women’s basketball
The Knights’ run through the AAC Championship ended against the hosts, No. 1 UConn, in a 78-56 battering Sunday.
Despite a relatively tight scoring gap early on, the Knights couldn’t keep up with the Huskies, making a late comeback attempt. By then the Knights had been outscored for three straight quarters.
Zykira Lewis again led the team in scoring, with 22 points on 35 percent shooting.
The loss ended the Knights season.