ORLANDO— The deafening voices of 6,201 UCF fans chanting “good Orlando, bad Orlando,” “flopper” and “you’re not Demarcus,” pounded through CTE Arena on Wednesday night and the Bulls could do little to quiet the rival crowd.
The black and gold “No Bull Tonight” T-shirts distributed to fans at the arena accurately encapsulated the evening as the Bulls dropped their 10th consecutive game 73-62 against in-state rival UCF.
“I know a lot of the freshmen on our team haven’t been through this before, so it was kind of crazy for them to see the fans like this,” senior guard Corey Allen Jr. said.
UCF was no defending champion UConn or conference-leading Tulsa. The Knights were on their own six-game losing streak — the team sat four games below .500 entering the game and rank third to last in the conference.
“We came in here really pushing to win and we didn’t get it,” Allen said. “We took a lot of steps back tonight, but it’s all about how we respond.”
The Bulls continued their threepoint woes that have plagued their season going 4-21 (.019) from beyond the arc.
“I encourage them to keep attacking and taking good shots,” coach Orlando Antigua said. “Wherever that comes from, it’s hard to determine. We’ll go back to the tape and determine which ones were good so we can teach them and show them.”
UCF’s Staphon Blair seem to own the paint, putting up 14 points, three blocks and seven rebounds, including two offensive rebounds on the same possession as well as the foul that took freshman guard Dinero Mercurius out of the game.
“He’s a big boy,” Antigua said of the 6-foot-9, 255-pound forward. “They got him the ball a couple of times and he got some of our guys into foul trouble. He got some lobs because we were stepping up … we got out of character.”
USF was without their leading scorer in Allen due to a rolled ankle that sent him to the bench for the remaining nine minutes of the first half. Allen would return to the game to start the second half, but by then, the Bulls had dug a nine-point hole.
The halftime deficit was primarily caused by a 14-point run by UCF during a 5:42 drought by USF.
“They got good production out of their bigs,” Antigua said. “The guards had been shooting the ball really well and playing well all year. Then you get them at home and they start seeing the ball get in the basket in the first half, then you’re creating a bigger giant than you need to be dealing with.”
The Bulls would cut the lead to five just under three minutes into the second half, but before they could catch their breath, UCF had jumped out to a 20-point lead, this time for good.
“We competed in the second half, the first half we didn’t,” Allen said.