College men's basketball: Jackrabbits lose close one to University of Central Florida

South Dakota State’s Luke Appel holds the ball during an 83-80 loss to Central Florida on Sunday night at the Jacksonville Classic in St. Augustine, Fla. (Andrew Pedersen/SDSU Athletics)

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — The South Dakota State men came up short in their first game in the Jacksonville Classic on Sunday night as the Jackrabbits fell to the Central Florida (UCF) 83-80.

SDSU trailed 75-69 with 2:46 to play and then went on a 7-0 run to take the lead with 58 seconds left. UCF’s Darius Johnson then gave the Knights the lead with 42 seconds left, but Charlie Easley answered with a bucket plus a foul on the other end to put the Jacks back in front with 29 seconds to play.

Easley was unable to convert the and-one and Johnson had an opportunity for a three-point play on the other end when he was fouled and made a lay up. He missed his free throw as well but the Knights grabbed the rebound and Jaylin Sellers made two free throws to put UCF up 81-78 with seven seconds left.

The Knights opted to foul Zeke Mayo with six seconds left and he knocked down both free throws to cut the lead to one once again. Omar Payne then hit two free throws to give UCF a 83-80 lead with four seconds to play. Easley shot a three at the buzzer but it was no good and the Jacks dropped to 1-3 on the season.

SDSU jumped out to a 19-12 lead but the Knights fought back and led 32-30 at halftime. The Jacks fell behind by eight early in the second half but then went on an 8-0 run to tie it up at 46-46 with 15 minutes to play. That was the theme of the half as SDSU trailed by five or more four different times in the second half.

SDSU shot 44.4% from the field and was 12-of-28 from three. The Jacks were led by Easley who had 21 points and six rebounds. Luke Appel had 19 points. Zeke Mayo had 12 points and eight rebounds. Nate Barnhart had 11 points and Kalen Garry had seven points and five rebounds.

The Knights 49.2% from the field and were 7-of-24 from three. Avery Marchelus led UCF with 22 points. Sellers had 20 points and Johnson had 11 points. Payne had 10 points.

SDSU won the rebound battle 40-29. The Jacks had 16 turnovers and UCF scored 25 points off of them. The Knights had just five turnovers.

SDSU will play again tonight as the Jacks will take on George Mason at 5 p.m. The Patriots (3-1) fell to Charlotte 54-49 on Sunday in the other game in the Jacksonville Classic.