After losing back-to-back conference games to Tulsa and Southern Miss., UCF Basketball (16-6) bounced back with an easy 84-69 victory over Division II-school Palm Beach Atlantic Monday night at the UCF Arena.
Marcus Jordan led the the Knights, who were in desperate need of a victory, with 17 points, 15 coming from three-point buckets, to go along with three assists, two rebounds and two steals.
The win was the 20th-straight non-conference home victory for UCF.
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UCF head coach Donnie Jones was happy to get back on track.
“We’re just happy it’s over with, we pulled out the win there,” Jones said.
The Sailfish did all they could to keep up with the Knights in the first half, not trailing by more than 12, and pulling within five points, before the final three minutes of the half when UCF was able to pull away.
It was only a matter of time before the athleticism and talent gap between the Knights and their Division II opponent became apparent. The Knights started a run that would continue through halftime and leave the Sailfish gasping for air.
UCF shot 47 percent compared to PBA’s 29 percent in the first half and went into the locker room with a safe 18-point lead at 43-25.
Just to put in perspective the amount of fun the Knights were having, Isaiah Sykes was shooting three’s, and Bobby Horodyski got playing time.
The Knights emerged from halftime on a mission to put away the Sailfish with a surge of three-point shots from Marcus Jordan, who tied a season high for three-point field goals. Thunderous dunks from Keith Clanton, who posted a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, and Kasey Wilson (15 points) kept the short-manned Knights’ fans rowdy throughout the contest.
Wilson had a career night and made the best of his 20 minutes of playing time, shooting seven-of-10 from the field and added five rebounds.
“We got a chance to play some young guys tonight, like Kasey Wilson. We’re really happy with him and to see his improvement,” said Jones.
The Knights saw playing time from the little used Horodyski, as well as freshman Wayne Martin and Rod Days. The Sailfish made an attempt to capitalize on UCF putting in their inexperienced players and went on a 16-0 run, turning a 77-49 point blowout into a 77-65 point ballgame.
Coach Jones saw enough and put the cavalry back in to seal the deal.
Marcus Hardy and Dante Valentine led the Sailfish in scoring with 19 and 17 points, respectively.
The UCF starters took care of business and finished out the game, winning 84-69 in front of a small, but very satisfied crowd.
Sykes finished with a solid 14 points, seven boards, five assists and two steals.
The Knights now have five days off to rest, and return to Conference-USA action for a road game against SMU, a venue the Knights have never won at. Tip-off is set for 3 p.m. on Feb. 4.