Central Florida played its second down-to-the-wire men's basketball game of the week on Friday, and this time came up a few points short.
FCSAA No. 5 Pensacola defeated No. 7 CF 77-66, withstanding the Patriots' hot start and second-half rally to escape Ocala with the victory. The intense, physical game was similar in style and tone to Monday's visit from Polk State, which the Patriots won 72-68.
CF (9-5) sped to an early lead as freshman swingman Will Saunders scored the game's first 8 points. But a hard-nosed Pirates squad quickly erased the Patriot lead and built one of their own, taking an advantage at halftime. A methodical CF rally trimmed the lead to 55-50 with 12 minutes to play.
After the teams traded baskets, sharpshooting freshman Christian Martinez knocked down a transition 3-pointer with just over 3 minutes to play that finally brought CF to within one possession of a tie, 69-66. The home team would get no closer than that margin.
Martinez scored 13, Eugene McCrory added 12 and Jeremiah Eason chipped in 10 for CF.
The Patriots' grueling weekend schedule is just getting started. The two-day, 10-game Florida Colleges Shootout is set for Saturday and Sunday at CF, with the home team taking the prime-time 8 p.m. time slot each night to face Miami-Dade and Hillsborough, respectively.