By MIKE SMITH
ORLANDO, Fla -- After trailing most of the game, the Miami RedHawks scrapped their way back to force overtime before falling to Central Florida, 80-73, Sunday at CFE Arena.
Miami had trailed most of the contest and was still down nine points with 7:16 remaining. However, MU outscored the hosts 14-5 during the remaininder of regulation. Junior Rod Mills nailed a jumper with 36 seconds left to force a 66-all tie.
Matt Williams led off the . . .
The last nine Central Florida points came at the foul line, a key production point for UCF. The Knights hit 28 of 34 free throws (82.4%) on the day, while Miami converted 14 of 19 (73.7%). No small part of that shot disparity owed to the RedHawks tall order of the day – stopping college basketball’s tallest player, 7-foot, 6-inch Tacko Fall.
“We struggled with Tacko’s size for the most part (during) the entire game,” Miami head coach John Cooper said, adding that Fall was also part of Central Florida’s 47-28 rebounding advantage. “Obviously, they killed us on the boards.”
Two things in particular, though, helped Miami weather the Knights advantages and an early deficit that put the hosts up 20-7 with 12:06 left in the first half.
One was the production of MU’s junior class, particularly during an extended stretch when point guard standout Michael Weathers was on the bench with foul issues. The freshman was also struggling with an illness. Mills (5), Abdoulaye Harouna (5) and Dion Wade (6) combined for 16 first half points,
Another MU advantage was in turnovers. Overall, Miami committed just eight, while UCF registered 18 turnovers against an aggressive RedHawk effort.
Miami fought all the way back to take a 34-33 lead following a Harouna trey with 3:44 left in the period. MU and the Knights traded the lead one more time before UCF ended the half with a seven-point run to hold a 40-34 advantage.
Mike Weathers’ return fueled an early Miami surge after intermission and the RedHawks twice pulled to within one point. It was 51-50 in favor of the home team when UCF went on a 10-2 run to go up 61-52. Miami then rallied down the stretch to force overtime at 66-all.
UCF, off to its best start since 2010 in spite of injuries, prevailed in overtime to run its record to 8-3. Miami, still seeking its first road win, fell to 5-6.
“We put ourselves in a position to win,” Cooper said. “In order to beat them, you’ve got to be able to step up and make shots.”
Central Florida shot 42.6 percent from the field, while Miami finished at 38.5 percent. Neither team cracked 30 percent on threes (MU - 29%, UCF – 25%).
Three RedHawks reached double figures: Michael Weathers (15), Mills (13) and Marcus Weathers (13). Logan McLane led MU rebounding with seven boards and also contributed eight points.
Joining Fall in double figures for UCF were senior Williams (15) and Tanksley Efianayi (14).
Miami returns to action Thursday, Dec. 22 when it hosts Tennessee Tech (7 p.m. ET)