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Jeff Eisenberg

Three straight losses plummet Central Florida back to earth

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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As Central Florida burst onto the national scene a year ahead of schedule by piling up 14 straight wins to start the season, there were always skeptics who suggested they lacked the talent to sustain such a run.

Turns out the naysayers may have been right.

The Knights lost their first home game of the season Wednesday night 74-62 to a mediocre East Carolina team not expected to contend in Conference USA this season. It's the third straight loss for Central Florida, which is now 1-3 in league play after also falling to Houston and Southern Mississippi.

To say that the Knights' early undefeated streak was a shock is an understatement of epic proportions. Coach Donnie Jones left Marshall to come to Central Florida because he thought the program had greater longterm potential, yet nobody thought the Knights would be relevant until next season when his first recruiting class arrives and a group of major-conference transfers become eligible.

There are a handful of reasons why the Central Florida team that showed up Wednesday night looked nothing like the one that upset in-state foes Florida and Miami earlier this season.

A lack of urgency chasing down loose balls and rebounds and an inability to close out on East Carolina 3-point shooters contributed to the Pirates building a 15-point first-half cushion. East Carolina thwarted several Central Florida comeback attempts with help from the Knight's atrocious 11 of 25 free throw shooting.

The lone bright spot for Central Florida is the presence of an enthusiastic crowd of more than 8,000 fans. That support wasn't enough to propel the Knights to victory on Wednesday night, but it bodes well for the program's future both the rest of this season and beyond.

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