Rice 53, Central Florida 51
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Morris Almond scored 30 points, including a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left, to lead seventh-seeded Rice to a 53-51 upset of second-seeded Central Florida in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Tournament on Thursday.
Almond’s winning shot came from just right of the top of the key under double coverage.
UCF tried to throw the ball long on the ensuing inbounds play, but the pass by reserve Mike Battle went out of bounds.
Almond connected on 10-of-20 shots from the field, and was the only player in double figures for the Owls (16-15).
Josh Peppers led the Golden Knights (22-9) with 18 points and 10 rebounds.
Rice, which defeated Texas-El Paso 77-74 in the opening round, did not lead in the game until Lorenzo Williams hit a jumper with 3:20 left to give the Owls a 48-47 advantage, which they extended on a pair of free throws by Almond.
But UCF would reclaim the lead when Dave Noel, who had guarded Almond all day, hit a pair of free throws with 1:43 left for a 51-50 advantage.
Almond, C-USA’s player of the year, scored 10 of Rice’s last 12 points to carry the team into Friday’s semifinal against the winner of Thursday’s Southern Mississippi-Houston game.
The Golden Knights used balanced scoring to build the lead to as many as 10 in the first half and held a 29-25 lead at halftime. UCF had nine assists in the first half on 12 field goals.