Isaiah Sykes drained a pair of free throws with 14 seconds left to lift the UCF Knights to a 60-58 victory over the Southern Miss Golden Eagles in a Conference USA tilt at UCF Arena.
Sykes finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, and four assists for UCF (16-6, 6-2 C-USA) as it picked up its fifth win in six games. Tristan Spurlock netted a team-high 18 points, Calvin Newell added 13 points. Keith Clanton grabbed nine boards and blocked seven shots and Matt Williams provided 11 points off the bench in the win.
Jonathan Mills paced USM (18-5, 7-1) with 15 points and nine boards. Dwayne Davis and Jerrold Brooks scored 10 points apiece as the Golden Eagles suffered their first loss in league action of the season.
The Knights took a narrow, 33-31, lead into the intermission by outscoring the visitors, 9-0, at the free throw line in the opening 20 minutes. USM went into the break trailing after it hit 44.8 percent of its field goal attempts, including 5-of-11 from 3-point range, in the first half of action.
The Golden Eagles cooled off to shoot just 27.6 percent from the floor in the second half, but stayed close by converting 10-of-15 at the charity stripe. UCF went 9-of-20 from the field after the break. With USM trailing, 58-57, Brooks made a clutch free throw to tie it up with 1:13 remaining. Sykes then drew a foul from Neil Watson to earn a trip to the charity stripe to put UCF ahead for good. Watson then missed a potential game-winning 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
Despite the loss, USM held a 40-35 edge in the rebounding battle and outscored the hosts, 28-20, in the paint.