- Associated Press - Sunday, February 2, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Central Florida needed someone to make up for star guard Isaiah Sykes‘ off-night, and Tristan Spurlock filled the role for a while.

Spurlock scored 18 points before a personal foul and technical foul in quick succession midway through the second half stalled his momentum and helped end the Knights’ chances in an 87-70 loss to No. 12 Louisville on Saturday night.

Spurlock fouled Montrezl Harrell in the lane with 13:04 remaining, sending the Louisville forward to the floor. Harrell quickly popped up and got in Spurlock’s face, and officials whistled Spurlock with a technical for what UCF coach Donnie Jones was told was a “comment” by the senior forward.

“It’s something that happened,” Spurlock said. “I had to deal with it. It was tough for us. I felt like it really hurt us as a team. It took us out of it a little bit.”

Spurlock went to the bench having hit 6 of 9 shots, including 3 of 6 3-pointers. He didn’t take another shot after picking up his fourth foul, hitting only two free throws following a technical foul on Louisville’s Terry Rozier in the final minute.

He finished with 20 points.

The game was out of reach long before that for UCF (9-10, 1-7 American Athletic Conference), which dropped its sixth straight.

Spurlock started the Knights’ first 16 games but has come off the bench in the past three games. Jones wanted to take pressure off of him, saying he’s been pressing too hard.

Sykes was the one who pressed against Louisville, hitting just 2 of 12 from the field. UCF’s leader in points, rebounds and assists per game, he scored eight points, just half of his season average.

Sykes hit just one of his first 10 shots and his 11th attempt - an off-balance, left-handed layup - rattled in with 3:53 remaining to make it 77-64. He finished with 11 rebounds.

Spurlock picked up the slack and had half of UCF’s 40 bench points.

“If we continue to get that kind of contribution, we’re going to be OK,” Jones said.

The Knights needed a little more against Louisville (18-4, 7-2).

Russ Smith scored 27 points and Luke Hancock added 16 for the Cardinals, who made 52 percent (32 of 62) from the field. Smith’s 9-of-14 shooting included a pair of 3-pointers and led the way.

Montrezl Harrell had 14 points and seven rebounds and Wayne Blackshear added 10 points in his first start in five games as Louisville bounced back from Thursday night’s loss to No. 13 Cincinnati.

The Cardinals outscored the Knights 48-28 in the paint en route to completing a season sweep and avoiding a losing streak for the fourth time this season. The Cardinals also scored 23 points off 16 turnovers and held the Knights to 21-of-55 shooting (38 percent).

UCF faced its third consecutive ranked AAC foe, and Louisville certainly didn’t make it easy at first in building a 20-6 lead with an improved transition game. Smith opened with a pair of 3-pointers en route to outscoring the Knights 14-13 with 9½ minutes left in the half.

UCF got within 29-25 on Spurlock’s flying dunk with 1:42 left in the half. Louisville’s nearly 5-minute scoreless stretch earlier opened the door for the Knights, but the Cardinals managed to take a 37-27 halftime lead on long-range baskets from Tim Henderson and Blackshear to close the half.

The Knights got within 68-59 on Kasey Wilson’s 3-pointer with 6:40 left but that was as close as they got.

“We just showed we can battle with the national champs,” Spurlock said. “We can play with anybody.”



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