It started out as a sloppy game for both teams with missed shots and tough calls from the referees, but the UCF men’s basketball team (8-2) got it together in the second half to beat Old Dominion University 61-53 Saturday night at the UCF Arena.
Keith Clanton had a big game for the Knights, scoring 23 points and grabbing a career-high 16 rebounds for his team-leading fourth double-double of the season. He also blocked four shots and made all three of his shots from the three-point line.
Old Dominion (5-5) was no pushover team, however. Last season, the team made the NCAA Tournament, but lost in the first round to the national runner-up, Butler. It was a good win for the Knights as they build on their resume, which includes a win over the defending national champion UConn Huskies, and try to make it to the 2012 NCAA Tournament.
“It was a great win for our program and our kids,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. “We beat a very good basketball team tonight – that’s going to be one of the better teams in the Colonial Athletic Association. They’ve won a lot of games over the last several years, and I’ve got great respect for Old Dominion. I’m really proud of our guys.”
“It was a real good game for us,” Clanton said. “We knew they were gonna be physical, so we wanted to outplay them. We knew they were a tournament team the last couple of years, so that was a big key for us because we’re trying to make it there.”
UCF sophomore Tristan Spurlock gave the team a spark off the bench when he knocked down two three-pointers in the last two minutes of the first half, one of which came right before the buzzer to give the Knights a 26-22 lead going into the half.
“It was big because any time you get the momentum going into halftime is a great feeling,” said Marcus Jordan, who finished with 17 points, four assists and four rebounds.
The Knights were more assertive in the second half on the offensive side of the ball. The referees were calling a lot of fouls, and UCF took advantage of that by driving into the lane to draw calls. This was especially the case for Marcus Jordan, who got to the line 10 times and scored 12 points in the second half.
“I know for me, my shot wasn’t falling tonight, so I just wanted to be more aggressive and get to the free-throw line,” Jordan said. “We got to the line a lot more than them, so I think we won it on the free-throw line.”
Midway through the second half, a dunk by Dwight McCombs started a 12-3 run by UCF to take a commanding 48-37 lead with six minutes remaining in the game. The Knights were able to hold that comfortable lead until the buzzer rang to earn another victory.
It was UCF’s 17th-consecutive non-conference home win, and fourth straight win overall.
Before UCF can take a break for the holiday, they will travel to Louisiana to face Louisiana-Lafayette at 8 p.m on Wednesday.