Lukosius' late shot helps lift Bearcats to 76-74 win over UCF

Following the Bearcats' 68-59 home loss to Iowa State, Wes Miller described the feeling of losing a second straight game to a top 10 opponent at home.

"I hate losing. I hate it. We are going to figure it out. This team is going to figure it out."

"You try to learn from everything and you try to grow in everything you're doing. If it's really damn hard and you get your butt kicked and you struggle, then embrace it and learn. That's how I'm going to approach it as a head coach every single day. I'm pissed. It hurts cause I hate losing but you embrace it and you learn and there's going to be things to learn from every night."

Cincinnati travelled to Orlando Saturday for an afternoon tip off against the UCF Knights.

The first game between the two ended with a Bearcats' 11-0 run over the final five minutes to walk off the Fifth Third Arena floor with a 68-57 win.

The first half of Saturday's rematch was another one filled with runs. 

Trailing 4-3 with 17:57 left in the first half, UC used an 8-0 run over the next 2:07 to build an 11-4 lead.

UCF missed four consecutive field goal attempts during the UC run, while UC was 3-for 3 from the field.

Cincinnati's hot shooting would continue as they extended their lead to 19-9, following a Jamille Reynolds dunk. It would mark the sixth consecutive make from the field for the Bearcats.

( Photo: UC Athletics / Isabella Marley )

At the under 12 media stop, Cincinnati led 21-13 following a 7-for-9 stretch from the field. 

The Bearcats extended their lead to 24-13 on a CJ Fredrick 3-pointer with 9:22 left in the half but the Knights responded with a 7-0 run over the next 1:17 as UC missed 6-of-7 field goal attempts during the UCF run.

Baskets by Aziz Bandaogo and Day Day Thomas extended the UC lead to 28-20 with seven minutes remaining in the half but the Knights would again answer with a run of their own.

Jaylin Sellers scored with 5:46 left in the half to kick-start an 8-0 run over the next 1:46 to tie the score at 28 with 4:10 remaining in the half.

Jamille Reynolds' basket with 3:24 left in the half ended an over three minute scoring drought.

The Bearcats missed their final five shot attempts of the half but held UCF without a point over the final 2:03 of the half to take a 37-30 lead into the locker room.

UC would extend their lead to 49-35 at the 17:33 mark of the second half.

Day Day Thomas and Simas Lukosius both scored five points, each, as UC opened the second half making five of their first six field goal attempts.

CJ Fredrick extended the lead to 51-39 with a runner in the lane, following UCF baskets by Ibrahima Diallo and Darius Johnson.

After two free throws by Jamille Reynolds at the 12:54 mark, UC led 53-44 but had missed their last six field goal attempts.

Josh Reed ended an over four minute field goal drought with a three from the top of the key to extend the UC lead to 56-44.

"We've got a lot of depth and different guys have stepped up at different times," Miller said following the game.

"To see Josh Reed come out and really be a difference maker after not playing much over the last week or so was really important for us."

With 11:28 left in the game, the Knights had been held scoreless for three minutes and UC had missed 7-of-8 field goal attempts. 

An and-one by Aziz Bandaogo with 8:42 left to play ended a 7-1 run by UCF to extend the Bearcats lead to 59-51. 

UC had missed 9-of-10 field goal attempts and had been held without a field goal for three minutes 37 seconds, prior to Bandaogo's basket.

The Bearcats were clinging to a five point lead, 59-54, with 7:46 left in the game.

Darius Johnson's three with 8:34 left gave the Knights momentum heading in to the under eight media stop.

Ibrahima Diallo cut the UC lead to three, but Newman responded with a bucket at the other end to push the Bearcats' lead back to five.

Jaylin Sellers layup extended the UCF run to 15-5 as they trailed by two, 61-59, with 5;50 remaining in the game. 

Freshman Jizzle James has been a key role player off the bench over the past three games. The Orlando native gave the Cats a four point lead with a pull-up jumper and Dan Skillings extended the lead to 66-59 with a three point play.

With 3:54 left to play, UCF had cut the UC lead to two, 67-65, after making three consecutive field goal attempts. Jizzle James' turnover led to a Marchellus Avery transition basket just before the final media stop.

Simas Lukosius extended the UC lead to 69-66 with 2:45 remaining but Darius Johnson responded at the other end to cut the lead back to one. 

The Bearcats had been held without a field goal for two minutes, 56 seconds but led 71-68 after two Bandaogo free throws at the 2:09 mark.

Jizzle James ended the Bearcats scoring drought with a layup with 1:33 left in the game but Jaylin Sellers answered with a jumper at the other end to tie things at 73 with 1:19 remaining.

Aziz Bandaogo made 1-of-2 free throws to give UC a 74-73 lead.

With 39 seconds remaining, UCF inbounded with ball from underneath their basket following a Darius Johnson miss. The pass went out of bounds to turn it back over to the Bearcats.

Simas Lukosius gave the Bearcats a three point lead with 11 seconds left.

(Photo: Mike Watters/ USA Today)

The final 11 seconds would be a wild sequence.

UCF missed a three point attempt on their next possession and fouled Dan Skillings following the rebound.

Skillings went to the line and missed the first free throw attempt. The sophomore guard then proceeded to miss the second attempt as well, allowing UCF a chance at the tie.

Lukosius fouled Marchellus Avery at mid court to prevent a game tying three point attempt.

Avery made the first shot but purposely missed the second with two seconds left on the clock.

Cincinnati grabbed the rebound and walked off the floor with a much needed 76-74 win and season sweep of the Knights. 

"Our games and so many in this league have such a fine line," Miller told reporters following the game.

"Standing up here after a win and talking to you guys, it feels great. We're humans, it feels good. After a loss, it feels absolutely awful. A lot of these are coming down to one possession. I think the biggest difference is if you're team is willing to win just one more possession. We have not been on the right end of that every game. The teams that win consistently are not blowing everyone out; they're doing the little things better. We're trying to be one of those."

With the win, Cincinnati improves to 16-9 and 5-7 in Big 12 play. UCF falls to 13-11 and 4-8 in conference play. 

Key Stats and Notes:

Skillings continues to lead the Cats

Dan Skillings scored 12 first half points and finished with a team high 15 points, eight rebounds in 31 minutes. The sophomore wing was 5-of-14 from the field, 1-for-4 from three, and 4-of-8 from the free throw line. The missed free throws with a chance to seal the game were a bit disappointing but Skillings impacted the game so much more than his scoring with his length and athleticism at both ends. 

Big Shot Simas

We have seen Simas struggle in big time situations this season but against both Texas Tech and UCF, on the road, he has hit shots in late game situations to carry the Bearcats to a victory. Lukosius finished the game with 12 points, scoring nine of those in the second half. His basket with :11 seconds left was a tough finish and put the pressure back on the Knights to make a big play after Sellers matched James' finish.

Paint Play

Both teams finished with 36 points in the paint. The Bearcats out-rebounded the Knights, 45-33, and pulled down 18 offensive rebounds while limiting UCF to just 8 offensive rebounds. UC finished with 12 second chance points compared to eight for UCF. Every extra opportunity was needed in today's win. 

"It's something we pride ourselves on. Last Saturday we got outrebounded by 17 and that's about as pissed as I've been, as far as a statistic, since I've been coaching at Cincinnati because that's something I expect us to be good on. I thought we were impactful there tonight and we have to continue to be."

"I thought it was one of his best games as a Bearcat."

Wes Miller mentioned post game that Aziz Bandaogo has been really hard on himself lately because he felt like he wasn't playing as well as he felt he could. Following Bandaogo's 13 point, 8 rebound performance, Miller mentioned that it was one of Bandaogo's best games as a Bearcat and felt his approach was really good coming in to the match up against UCF's Ibrahima Diallo. 

No Lakhin, No Problem

While it wasn't the plan coming in to the game, Vik Lakhin saw the court for less than one minute today against UCF. Following the game, Miller cited the Bearcats small lineup being effective against the UCF press early and not being hurt on the boards with Skillings in the starting lineup as reasons for Vik not seeing the floor.

Miller went on to say that Lakhin's attitude throughout was tremendous and the smaller lineup gave the Bearcats the best game plan to win.

Hometown Heroes

Playing in front of hometown friends and family, both Jizzle James and Jamille Reynolds played keyed roles in UC's victory. James finished with seven points and made 3-of-7 field goal attempts while Reynolds pulled down nine rebounds to go with six points. 

"I thought Jizzle James and Jamille Reynolds gave us unbelievable minutes off the bench."

Second Half Composure

Darius Johnson scored 13 of his game high 16 points in the second half for the Knights but missed three of his final four field goal attempts when the Bearcats needed stops.

As a team, UCF made 16-of-30 field goal attempts (53 percent) in the second half. UC never wavered and got big shots from multiple guys when they needed them. 

"This has been a really resilient team, and we were tonight," Miller told reporters. 

"We played well offensively to start the game, and we have not been recently. It lifted us to see balls going in and to feel in control of the game. It got dicey down the stretch, and that can be difficult with some young players. But I was proud that we found a way."

"It's a great road win. You got to figure out how to get those this time of the year."

Final Thoughts

UC now has three Quad 1 wins. In a league where it has been tough for virtually every team to find wins in an opponent's gym, UC has been at their best in road game situations where their backs are against the wall. The Knights had previously beaten ranked opponents, Kansas and Oklahoma, inside Addition Financial Arena. This was a total team effort where we saw nine different Bearcats crack the box score.

With a six game stretch that is considered to be the easiest remaining schedule in the conference, the Bearcats are still in a position to end their NCAA Tournament drought. 

Up Next:

Wednesday Feb 21st v Oklahoma State - Fifth Third Arena



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