What might have been the Tigers' gutsiest win of the season evaporated over the game's final frantic seconds tonight in Orlando and became the most crushing loss of the campaign. Having erased a 13-point deficit in the second half at UCF — playing in an arena where the Knights had won all 10 games they've played this season — the Tigers had victory in the hands of Antonio Barton when he was fouled and sent to the free-throw line with Memphis leading 67-65 and 22 seconds left to play.
The last-minute hero of a Tiger win in Orlando last season, Barton missed the front end of a one-and-one, allowing the Knights a chance to tie or win the game in regulation. UCF guard A.J. Rompza badly misfired from near the three-point stripe, but teammate Keith Clanton got around Tiger defender Wesley Witherspoon for a rebound. Clanton muscled the ball up and in to tie the game and drew a foul as Witherspoon fell to the floor. His free throw with four seconds left provided the winning point as the Tigers were unable to get the ball across midcourt for a desperation shot.
For a team precariously close to the fabled NCAA tournament bubble, the loss may prove to be devastating. It was the Tigers' first contest since learning freshman star Adonis Thomas may miss the rest of the season as he recovers from ankle surgery. Memphis falls to 12-6 for the season as its six-game winning streak comes to an end. The Tigers are now 3-1 in Conference USA play, tied with UCF but behind Marshall (4-0).
Sophomore guard Joe Jackson appeared to be the hero when he drained a three-pointer from the top of the arc as the shot-clock expired with 42 seconds left in the game. Will Barton led the Tigers with 24 points. Chris Crawford added 12 and Tarik Black 10. UCF shot 45 percent for the game, the first time since the Memphis winning streak began that a team has shot better than 40 percent.
Clanton and Marcus Jordan each scored 20 points for the victorious Knights. The win is the first for UCF in 11 meetings with Memphis.
The Tigers return to FedExForum for a noon tip-off against SMU this Saturday.