ORLANDO ― The way Brian Gregory saw it Saturday, UCF and a veteran officiating crew might have been able to mince his team’s heart and psyche, but not his words.
In the immediate wake of his team’s latest excruciating setback, a 55-54 loss at UCF, the Bulls’ third-year coach didn’t suppress his disgust over a foul whistle ― away from the ball ― against veteran guard Laquincy Rideau on a Dazon Ingram drive to the basket with 12.6 seconds to go.
The tardy whistle enabled Ingram to sink the game’s two decisive free throws.
“I’ll just be blunt, very disappointed in that call at the end of the game. It was not a good call,” said Gregory, whose program dropped its ninth in a row to its intrastate rival.
“Give (Ingram) credit, drove it hard, (the ball) was already falling down. You’ve got a veteran official on the baseline that’s been to Final Fours, doesn’t make a call. And some guy on the outside after we get the rebound late-called on it as well.”
After a Bulls timeout, Rideau drove hard to the basket and appeared to draw initial contact in the lane, but no whistle was blown. Rideau missed his off-balance lay-up try in the paint, and a second-chance attempt, to end the contest.
As a result, the Bulls (8-10, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) suffered their third consecutive defeat by four or fewer points.
“That’s the only thing we can do at this point, just keep fighting away,” said 7-foot sophomore Michael Durr, who scored nine of his 11 points in the second half. “We’re just gonna get through it together, we’ve just got to keep fighting.”
This one, before a raucous Additional Financial Arena crowd of 6,433, featured nine lead changes and nine ties, with neither team leading by more than seven or scoring more than eight in a row at any point.
“It’s disappointing that two teams play as hard as both those teams played tonight, and competed very clean and tough, for it to end…on a call like that,” Gregory said.
On a night when they shot a season-low 15.4 percent (4-for-26) from 3-point range, the Bulls got a pivotal one from junior Justin Brown from the left wing with 2:14 to go, giving them a 54-49 lead.
Before that, a chunk of the Bulls’ offense had come from Durr and backup Antun Maricevic, who scored all nine of his points in the first half when Durr was benched with foul trouble. USF finished with a 30-18 scoring advantage in the paint.
But Brown’s basket was USF’s last of the game. Rideau and junior David Collins missed 3-pointers on USF’s ensuing two possessions, and UCF redshirt senior Matt Milon hit a trey with 1:57 to play to cut his team’s deficit to 54-52. Ingram sank one of two free throws with 53 seconds to go to make it a one-point game.
Collins’ miss, with 29 seconds remaining, was rebounded by Milon, allowing the Knights (11-7, 2-4) to call a timeout and set up Ingram’s drive that drew the Rideau foul.
“If that call is made in four or five of our games, we win games,” Gregory said. "To be honest with you, there was probably just as much contact at the end on Laquincy’s drive. And that’s why we said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to drive it. They just called one, we’ve got to drive it.’
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you do the things that you’ve got to do and put yourself in position to win on the road against a really well-coached team...and you get a call like that.”