This felt like a must-win game for the Knights going in.
It wasn’t going to be a big win, but it could have been a big loss.
In the end, the Knights would put together a complete game pulling away from the Rice Owls in their home conference opener, 77-58.
The Owls led 21-16 following a three-pointer by Trey Stanton with 7:30 left in the first half. The Knights would score the game’s next 17 points, while the Owls experienced a scoring drought lasting nearly seven minutes.
From there on, UCF cruised to victory. They were led by freshman Keith Clanton who had his best game of the season to date, scoring 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three, and added six boards and three blocks.
A change in scenery for the Knights came when freshman Marcus Jordan was named to the starting lineup, replacing Isaac Sosa in that role. Jordan had just five points in 19 minutes of action. Sosa ended up with eight points in 25 minutes, including two three-pointers.
Clanton picked up his game after fellow freshman Dave Diakite went down with an apparent leg injury after just eight minutes of action.
Clanton got help from an especially efficient effort from the field by his teammates, leading to 53.6 percent shooting for the game.
The Knights held Rice to just 39.2 percent from the field for the game, while their leading scorer, freshman Tamir Jackson, shot just 6-of-16 from the field for 17 points.
A.J. Rompza turned in his second-straight double-digit scoring performance, tallying 13 points, six assists, and five steals while connecting on 3-of-7 three-point attempts.
Rompza led the team to a very solid three-point shooting day in which the team made 11-of-23 attempts.
The Knights looked as good as they have all season Saturday night. The key was getting the big performance out of Clanton inside. That opened up more opportunities for the guards to hit perimeter shots, and they came through.
The game served as a definite confidence booster, with the Knights coming off two losses to Jacksonville and Ole Miss. Rice is now a team in the conference that the Knights know they should beat.
UCF will play a tough schedule this coming week that should reveal where the team stands in Conference USA, as they host Marshall Jan. 13 and then travel to conference-favorite Tulsa on Jan. 16.
Read the full article here: The Sports Genius.
Photo courtesy of www.ucfsports.com.