Tristan Spurlock added 14 points, and Sykes finished with 21 points and 10 boards. Sykes, who hit 7 of 9 free throws, is shooting 88.4 percent (23 of 26) from the free-throw line in conference play after shooting 53.3 percent during nonconference play.
A 19-9 Mustangs run cut what was an 11-point deficit to 66-65 with just 1:49 remaining. But SMU (11-10, 1-5) could not overtake UCF, as Sykes and Kasey Wilson hit back-to-back layups while the Knights held the Mustangs scoreless the rest of the way.
The Mustangs, who entered allowing opponents to shoot just 39 percent, allowed UCF to shoot 46.4 percent (26-for-56).
Ryan Manuel had 17 for SMU, which has lost nine of its last 12 after starting the season 8-1.
NBA fans will be looking forward to their newest players making plays like this next season.
Tim Legler and Brad Daugherty analyze Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram, the top two picks in the NBA draft, and agree that Simmons will have a more immediate impact.
Dickie V likes the idea of Oklahoma star Buddy Hield teaming up with Anthony Davis in New Orleans. What did he think of other teams' selections?