ORLANDO, Fla. -- Kasey Wilson scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to help the University of Central Florida rally past Howard University 79-64 Wednesday night.
The Bison (2-10), playing without leading scorer James Daniel, got 20 points from Prince Okoroh and 16 from Solomon Mangham, but couldn't get another player in double figures and lost their 10th straight game.
UCF made nine 3-pointers in the second half, when it shot 48.4 percent (15 of 31) and found a solution for Howard's zone defense. The Knights had run of four straight 3-pointers that broke open what had been a competitive game for the first 30 minutes.
"We've seen a lot of zone defense and we really struggle with them," UCF Coach Donnie Jones said. "You've got to make some shots to loosen up the zone and we did in the second half because we made some extra passes that gave us good looks. Guys were making the second, third and even fourth pass to get the best shot and it showed."
Howard held a 32-30 halftime lead, but the Bison, who played six freshmen, couldn't find any energy in the second half when UCF started pulling away.
"Freshmen and fatigue, the same two things that have gotten us all year," Howard Coach Kevin Nickelberry said. "We've played a lot of good halves this season, but we can't keep it going for a whole game because we just don't have the depth or experience you need to compete at this level."
UCF played the second half without Isaiah Sykes, who is second on the team in scoring, rebounding and assists and the team's top defensive player. Sykes benching was a "coach's decision" according to Jones, who declined to elaborate.
Wilson started the Knights second-half surge with an unlikely 3-pointer. The 6-7 junior launched the shot from a few steps inside halfcourt just as the shot-clock sounded and it swished. That prompted a 14-5 run that Wilson finished with a follow shot that made it 64-52 with 5:37 left in the game.
Okoroh interrupted the run with a layup, but the Knights countered with four straight 3-pointers to create enough breathing room to make up for Sykes absence.
Howard was lost in the second half without Daniel, who missed the game with a toe injury. The Bison split its offense evenly among the rest of the team and took a surprising 32-30 halftime lead. Okoroh and Mangham had eight points apiece and all but one of the nine Bisons, scored at least a point.
Howard spread its 2/3 zone defense out wide in the first half and UCF guards wouldn't penetrate, causing the Knights to launch nearly all jump shots. Newell had the most luck from the perimeter, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and scoring 10 points, but the Knights' point guard couldn't get his team in a rhythm the whole half.
"We didn't play particularly well or hard the first half," Wilson said. "Coach always says he shouldn't have to coach energy and he's right. We came out and played with a lot more of that in the second half and started moving the ball around the way we should and it showed."
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|South Carolina State||12-4||1||19-15|
|North Carolina Central||7-9||6||13-19|
|North Carolina A&T||7-9||6||10-22|