Saturday , Mar , 06 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

UCF wins Atlantic Sun for NCAA bid

Nashville, TN (Sports Network) – Dexter Lyons scored 18 points to lead Central
Florida to a 60-55 victory over Troy State in the Atlantic Sun Tournament
championship game.

The Golden Knights (25-5), who captured the conference tournament title for
the third time, avenged a loss to Troy State in last year’s championship game
and will head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1996.

Greg Davis scored 22 points for Troy State (24-6), which had a 13-game winning
streak stopped. Herbert Evans chipped in 14 points in defeat.

UCF led from start to finish, but Troy State whittled a nine-point deficit
down to one with a 10-2 run. A three-pointer by Evans pulled the Trojans
within 44-43 with 8 1/2 minutes remaining.

Rob Ross countered with consecutive three-pointers to increase the Knights’
lead to seven a minute later.

The Trojans got as close as three at 53-50 on a trey by Davis with just over
two minutes left, and a steal by Jerome Stamper gave Troy State the ball again
with a chance to pull within one or tie.

Rob Lewin was fouled, but missed both free throws with 1:26 left.

It was still a three-point game with 44 seconds to play after Davis made the
second of two free throws for Troy State, but Gary Johnson hit two from the
line for UCF and Davis missed from three-point range with 18 seconds to play.

Roberto Morentin added two from the line to seal it for the Knights.

UCF finished 10-of-14 from the stripe, while Troy State made just 12-of-19.

Morentin and Ross each finished with nine points for UCF.

“We didn’t play a good game of basketball or a very smart game of basketball,”
said Troy State head coach Don Maestri. “We don’t feel good at this moment,
but if there were to be a post-season (NIT) bid, there would not be a better
reward for this group of guys.”

The Knights scored the first eight points of the game and opened a 19-9 edge
with just under nine minutes left in the first half. A three-pointer by
Kingsley Edwards gave UCF a 25-13 cushion with 5:40 to play until halftime.

“We were able to control the tempo after those first three minutes of the
ballgame and I thought that was critical,” UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said.

Troy State still trailed by 12 in the final minute, but scored the last seven
points to head into the break down just 29-24.

UCF made the NCAA Tournament in 1994 as a 16 seed and lost to Purdue in the
first round, then fell to Massachusetts as a 16 seed in 1996.