With a 1-point UCF lead in the final seconds of the game, Knights fans were on the edge of their seats hoping UCF would pull out the victory.
But then Florida Atlantic Owls' forward Simeon Lepichev made a layup off an offensive rebound with one second left to break the hearts of UCF.
Before the FAU game-winner, the Knights thought they were the team with a last-second victory. With seven seconds left, UCF redshirt senior guard B.J. Taylor made a layup that gave the Knights a one-point lead that wouldn't last.
The 80-79 loss gives the Knights (1-1) their first loss of the season. The Knights went into the game as 21.5-point favorites over FAU (2-0), according to Sportsline.
The Knights had a 20-point lead with 8:38 left in the first half, but FAU outscored the Knights 25-11 to end the first half and only trailed by six at halftime.
After the Knights extended the lead to 70-60 over the Owls with 5:51 left in the game, the Owls ended the game on a 20-9 run and culminated in the game-winning putback layup by Lepichev.
“I think [FAU's] players made a lot of good plays down the stretch," UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins said. "It was going to be one of those games where whoever got the ball last would have a chance to win and unfortunately, they got the ball last.”
Hustle plays were key for FAU throughout the game as the Knights gave up 17 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points.
FAU also out-rebounded the Knights 40-38 and forced UCF into 17 turnovers for the game.
Johnny Dawkins said one of the reasons that UCF gave up a big lead and was out-hustled was that they did not play with enough energy for 40 minutes.
“I thought FAU played with more passion and desire than we did tonight and that’s disappointing,” Johnny Dawkins said. “That’s the one thing that both teams should have at a high level and I didn’t think we didn’t have it at a level that we needed to and they did.”
Taylor led the way for the Knights with a game-high 29 points and was the focal point in the second half, as 22 of his points came in the second half.
Taylor said the defensive effort was the reason why the Knights lost the game in the end.
“We didn’t get stops that we need to get on defense,” Taylor said. “Our whole system is predicated on defense and we didn’t get the stops that we needed to get.”
The Knights continued to struggle from the three-point line. They shot only 6-for-20 from beyond the arc.
“We had some struggles from behind the line,” redshirt junior guard Aubrey Dawkins said. “But it’ll turn on for us. It usually evens itself out.”
Aubrey Dawkins finished the game with 16 points and five rebounds. Twelve of his points came in the first eight minutes of the ball game.
The Knights will try to bounce back from the loss as they travel to participate in the Myrtle Beach Invitational at the HTC Center in Conway, South Carolina. UCF's first opponent will be the Cal State Fullerton Titans on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.