(Photo credit: Alan Youngblood / USA TODAY NETWORK)
Jaylin Sellers and Omar Payne combined to hit four free throws in the closing seconds to help UCF hold off South Dakota State 83-80 on Sunday night in a first-round game in the Jacksonville Classic being played in nearby St. Augustine, Fla.
Sellers hit two free throws with the Knights (3-1) up by a point and seven seconds left on his way to 20 points, and Payne added a pair of foul shots with four seconds remaining after the Jackrabbits (1-3) had closed to within 81-80 on Zeke Mayo's free throws with six seconds to go.
New Mexico State transfer Marchelus Avery led the Knights with 22 points, and Darius Johnson, who hit a key go-ahead layup to give the Knights a 79-78 lead with 10 seconds left, added 11. Payne finished with 10 points.
Charlie Easley led the Jackrabbits with 21 points while Luke Appel added 19. Mayo finished with 12, and Nate Barnhart had 11.
After a cold-shooting first half, both teams warmed up in the second. The Knights finished at 49.2 percent from the field for the night, with the Jackrabbits at 44.4 percent.
UCF started the second half on a high note, hitting a quick two baskets, including Sellers' 3-pointer, to boost a two-point lead to 37-30 in the first minute.
The Knights were up 44-36 before the Jackrabbits responded with a 7-0 run to get within 44-43, and UCF's lead was no more than a single possession until Avery hit a trey with 12:42 left.
UCF held a six-point edge before the Jackrabbits went on another 7-0 spurt and held a 76-75 lead on Kalen Garry's free throws with 58 seconds remaining to set up the closing dramatics.
UCF will play Charlotte on Monday night for the Coast Bracket title in the eight-team Jacksonville event.
Both teams struggled with their shooting in the first half. The Knights led 32-30 at the break despite hitting only 39.4 percent of their shots from the field and trailing 19-12 near the midway point of the period.
Meanwhile, the Jackrabbits shot only 33.3 percent from the floor through the first 20 minutes of action.
--Field Level Media