By Jake Fein
The 6-1 Central Florida Knights travelled to Mizzou Arena to take on the 3-3 Missouri Tigers on Sunday afternoon. The storylines were clear long before the ball tipped. 7-foot-6 UCF forward and reigningAAC Defensive player of the year Tacko Fall came in second in the nation in field goal percentage. Missouri’s Mark Smith entered the game second in the SEC in three-point shooting at 51 percent which, would be crucial for Mizzou’s offense Fall’s presence in the paint.
The Tigers got off to a hot start, with two three-pointers from Mark Smith to kick off the game and a Jordan Geist three to put the Tigers up 9-2 early. As the game dragged on, Missouri’s offensive struggles and UCF’s defensive excellence combined for a perfect storm. UCF’s zone defense, anchored by Fall, was just too much for Mizzou to handle. They were unable to get to the basket,and couldn’t find an open man on the outside. All that added up to a 1-15 stretch from the field to close out the half for the Tigers
The Knights weren’t exactly shining on offense, either. Other than a few points in transition, they were unable to put together any fruitful possessions, but Missouri’s offense helped them out and in a big way. UCF only attempted 15 shots in the first half, knocking down 7 of them, but the Tigers sent them to the line for 18 shots.
Despite shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line, UCF was only able to tally 27 first half points on just 15 shots, capitalizing on Mizzou’s foul trouble and inability to get a shot to fall on the offensive side. Both teams went into the locker room with the score sitting at 27-21.
Mizzou came out during the second half in need of someone to step up, and senior guard Jordan Geist did just that.
He started off the half as a presence on the defensive end, forcing some turnovers and hitting a couple of threes in transition. Sophomore center Jeremiah Tilmon got in on the action as well, finishing with 10 points after going to work on Fall in the paint.. After some back and forth and a few clutch shots from both sides, UCF found themselves up 55-52 with the ball with just 40 seconds left.
A UCF inbound found its way at Geist’s feet, he scooped it up and dropped it in from straight under the hoop. 55-54, still UCF. The Knights brought up the ball and off a pick threw up a three. A collective sigh fell over the Mizzou fans as it clanked off the back rim, but Mizzou wasn’t out of the woods yet, as UCF pulled down the rebound.
After another missed three and a failed drive, the buzzer on the shot clock expired, Mizzou ball. After a timeout and a thorough discussion about the play to come Mizzou looked to inbound it down one with just 15 seconds left: and turned it over with a five-second violation. UCF inbounded, Mizzou fouled and this game looked all but over. UCF knocked down both free throws and Mizzou had just 12 seconds to tie up the game, now down three. Mizzou called another timeout, had the chance to talk over the situation and hopefully draw up a better play than the botched inbound, but they didn’t.
Geist took the ball at the logo and what was supposed to be a well thought out play turned into a jumble of Mizzou players. Mizzou fans yelled at the top of their lungs, pleading the team to do something with the ball, and Geist was forced to take matters into his own hands. With three seconds left he stepped forward to the three point line, two UCF defenders closed in on him as his feet left the court. Forced to double-clutch he barely got his shot off, but he did, releasing with just under a second left.
“I always feel like i’m shooting into an ocean,” Geist said postgame.
As the ball fell towards the rim a hush fell over the crowd, until the only sound you could hear was the deafening sound of the ball hitting nothing but net. The crowd, the Mizzou players, and the Mizzou bench erupted as the buzzer sounded, but Geist stood in place, not even fazed by his crucial circus shot to send the game into overtime.
After the OT period started with a traded pair of free throws it was the Geist show all over again, nailing a three to take the lead. However, UCF marched right back down finding guard BJ Taylor for a three of his own. This time it was Tilmon’s turn to be clutch. He was fed the ball in the post, working on none other than Fall. Tilmon used his body to get inside, turned around and placed the ball just over the outstretched hand of Fall and into the basket. In the end it would be UCF who would “Fall” to the Tigers 64-62 in OT.
The Tigers were only 37 percent from the field, but it was their decreased turnovers and work on the boards that allowed them to pull this one out despite the fact. As for UCF, the defense did exactly what it was supposed to do, but the offense was unimpressive. The lights out shooting from Aubrey Dawkins, who went 4-7 from three, wasn’t enough to overcome the lackluster work from the UCF offense. Looking to their respective next games, the Tigers need to learn to be more efficient with their offensive possessions, while UCF needs some of their shooters to step up, and put the Knights offense on their backs.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org