The Colorado Buffaloes men’s basketball team fought hard to the very end Wednesday night, but couldn’t survive against their opponent’s hot shooting. The University of Central Florida Knights put on a show on offense and survived a near collapse in the last minute to advance over Colorado in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament 79-74.
UCF came out shooting, with guard Matt Williams making three shots from behind the arc as the Knights went 60 percent from three in the first half. The Knights built a sizable lead on a barrage of shots and solid rebounding from their 7-foot-6-inch center Tacko Fall. Fall was, predictably, a big force on the glass for the Knights, picking up eight rebounds on the night. Despite Fall’s strong play inside, the UCF offense centered around perimeter shooting from their talented guards.
Colorado refused to submit though, fighting hard to close the gap in the first half. Senior guard Derrick White was once again dominant, running the Colorado offense with efficient passing and fearlessly attacking the rim. White also made some impressive plays on defense, with two big blocks in the paint. With some key three-pointers of their own, and missed free-throws from UCF, the Buffs managed to come within four at the half at 38-34.
In the second half, the Buffs went cold from the floor, missing open shots and letting the Knights build back a double-digit lead. CU went a dismal 27.3 percent from three. A.J. Davis and B.J. Taylor came alive on offense for the Knights, scoring 17 and 26 respectively.
Not to be deterred, White continued to attack the paint, slashing inside for more beautiful layups. White would finish the night with 30 points, six rebounds and six assists, fitting stats for his last game with Colorado. CU would once again tighten the gap heading into the last five minutes, but UCF continued to be deadly from behind the arc. Huge threes from White and senior guard Xavier Johnson, and a string of missed free-throws from UCF, allowed the Buffs to somehow come within one possession with under a minute left, but White would squander a go-ahead three-point shot.
With the tough loss, the Buffs end a disappointing season on a bitter note, failing to advance even one round in the NIT. In what turned out to be their last game as Buffaloes, CU’s seniors came up agonizingly close to a win but couldn’t quite get there.
With the win, UCF will advance to play the winner of tonight’s matchup between Illinois State and UC Irvine in the second round.
Contact CU Independent Sports Staff Writer Kyle Rini at firstname.lastname@example.org.