ORLANDO — When they arrived at midcourt at game's end, the mentor told the former pupil how well his team had played and how much he deserved to win.
Three times Florida coach Billy Donovan repeated those words to UCF coach Donnie Jones while they shared an emotional embrace: UCF deserved to win.
In the first collegiate event at the new $380 million Amway Center in Orlando, the Knights stunned No. 18 Florida with a 57-54 victory in front of 13,909 Wednesday night.
"I'm kind of at a loss for words," said Jones, who, in his first season at UCF, led the school to its first win in 10 meetings with Florida and its first against a top-20 team. "It's kind of surreal."
Florida trailed 53-52 with 54 seconds remaining when UCF freshman guard Isaiah Sykes' inbounds pass was stolen by Florida guard Kenny Boynton. But Boyton's jumper just inside the 3-point line bounced off the rim, and UCF's Keith Clanton rebounded with 32 seconds left.
After sophomore guard Marcus Jordan hit two free throws to give UCF a 55-52 lead with 24 seconds remaining, the Gators had a chance, but Erving Walker missed a 3-pointer. UF's Vernon Macklin rebounded the shot and sent it out to Boynton, whose 3 also fell short. Walker and Boynton combined to go 8-of-27 and had just three assists for UF (5-2).
"They were the better team tonight," Walker said. "They played unselfish, we didn't."
"Our issues are bigger than this loss," said Donovan, who has all five starters back from last season's NCAA Tournament team. "We have a bunch of guys on the floor that make nobody better."
UCF (6-0) shot just 26.7 percent in the second half, but Jones said "we won it with our defense."
Florida senior center Macklin had a game-high 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds; he was 10-of-11 from the field. Jordan, the youngest son of Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, led the way for UCF with 18 points.
It was a tough homecoming for Florida senior Chandler Parsons, the Casselberry native, who was 1-of-9 from the field and 0-for-6 from the free-throw line. He finished with two points and six rebounds.
Asked if that type of game was his worst nightmare, Parsons said: "Close. Couldn't get any worse."
Donovan said he was most disappointed in his veterans.
"We're not a cohesive team right now, certainly on the offensive end of the floor," he said. "We have a group of guys, and when I say a group, all of our older guys are way, way too wrapped up with their offense.
"Offensively you try to give them freedom and let them play, but I also think that what they're doing right now is really, they're not into playing together. They're not utilizing each others' individual talents. And the disappointing part is these guys all played together last year."