Poor shooting, turnovers doom Central Florida in 77-49 loss to No. 7 Cincinnati

When Central Florida doesn't shoot well, the Knights usually wind up in a big hole.

They found themselves in that predicament again against seventh-ranked Cincinnati, and the result was predictable.

Sean Kilpatrick hit six 3-pointers and scored 23 points as the Bearcats forced 16 turnovers in dominating UCF during a 77-49 victory Wednesday night.

Central Florida (10-14, 2-11 American Athletic Conference) shot just 17 percent in the first half and 29 percent for the game. The Bearcats also clamped down on Knights leading scorer Isaiah Sykes. He finished with a team-high 13 points and 10 rebounds, but was 5 for 15 from the floor with seven turnovers.

The Knights have lost 10 of 11.

UCF coach Donnie Jones thought Cincinnati was disruptive all night.

"We didn't play very well, but they had something to do with that," Jones said. "There is a reason they're a Top 10 team in the country — the way they defend, the way they execute. Sean Kilpatrick is a terrific player and showed that tonight."

Central Florida's offense struggled mightily in the first half, allowing Cincinnati to build an early 20-point lead. The struggling Knights never got it back to single digits in the second half, giving up 21 points off their turnovers.

The Bearcats (24-3, 13-1) have won 17 of 18 going into their conference showdown with No. 11 Louisville on Saturday, a team they beat on the road last month.

"We were really unhappy with our defense against Houston. Nothing against Houston, they played great. We weren't hungry defensively," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "Anybody who's seen us play knows we're a much hungrier team defensively. And to do what we want to do, we have to be great defensively.

"The guys committed to that tonight."

Justin Jackson added 10 points and seven rebounds for Cincinnati, which beat UCF for the second time this season.

The Bearcats also shared the ball, with 17 assists to just six turnovers.

"We focused on their key shooters," Kilpatrick said. "We knew they were going to struggle a little bit, because we were packing it in a lot. We just focused on Sykes. ... We were working on keeping him out of the lane and that was something that helped us."

While Kilpatrick was certainly involved in Cincinnati's defensive performance, he also passed Steve Logan for second place on the school's career scoring list. Kilpatrick entered the night 19 points behind Logan.

"Like I keep telling him, I want to know who's a better guard in America than Sean Kilpatrick?" Cronin said.

Kilpatrick said he was unaware of the milestone until his teammates informed him later. Cronin said that's indicative of the mindset Kilpatrick has had throughout his career.

"It's a little nostalgia for me because I recruited Steve," Cronin said. "Very similar guys. Lot of pride in who they are as a player. Their happiness is wrapped up in whether their team wins (rather) than if they play well. It's the necessary chip that you have to have to be great. SK's got it. Steve had unbelievable heart and SK has the same thing."

Cincinnati took a 40-18 lead into halftime, taking advantage of UCF's poor shooting. The Knights connected on just one of their first 18 field goal attempts and went more than 4 minutes without a basket as the Bearcats built a lead that swelled to as many as 25 points.

UCF also turned it over 10 times in the first half, leading to 17 Cincinnati points.

The Bearcats did most of their damage in the paint, where they scored 16 points before halftime. But they also connected on five 3s, which kept the Knights' defense scrambling for most of the half.


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