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Collin Smith leads UCF to critical win at No. 8 Houston

Collin Smith, Jarron Cumberland

Central Florida’s Collin Smith (35) shoots over Cincinnati’s Jarron Cumberland (34) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)


Houston decided that they weren’t going to let Tacko Fall, B.J. Taylor and Aubrey Dawkins beat them on Saturday.

They didn’t.

Collin Smith did.

The 6-foot-10 transfer from George Washington scored a career-high 21 points to go along with seven boards and three assists as UCF landed a critical win over No. 8 Houston in Houston, 69-64, ending the longest home-court winning streak in the country.

This was the win that UCF needed. Sitting 30th in the NET, the Knights have a 21-6 record with just one loss coming to an opponent outside Q1 and Q2 -- Florida Atlantic (147) at home, a Q3 loss -- but entering Saturday, they did not have a single win over a Q1 opponent. That all changed on Saturday, and a road win over a team that is currently sitting fourth in the NET is good enough that this should get the Knights onto the right side of the bubble.

The job is not done yet, not when they still have to host Cincinnati (22) and play at Temple (57), but both of those games are going to be Q1 games. A Q1 loss isn’t going to hurt the Knights at this point. They needed to prove that they could beat good teams, and there may not be five wins in college basketball this season that end up carrying more weight on Selection Sunday than a win at Houston.

As far as the Cougars are concerned, this is not the end of the world. They are no longer the only team in college basketball with just one loss, but it shouldn’t effect their seed too much. If anything, this ends the dream that they could have played their way onto the No. 1 or No. 2 seed line, but even that was a stretch.

It does, however, make an AAC title that much more unlikely.

As it stands, Houston and Cincinnati will be tied for first in the league standings if the Bearcats hold serve against Memphis tonight. And if the Bearcats can also get past UCF in Orlando, then we should end up with a season finale with the American title on the line -- No. 8 Houston at No. 23 Cincinnati.

That would be fun.