Knights remain undefeated after defeating Bethune-Cookman 76-59
Published: Saturday, December 11, 2010
Updated: Sunday, December 12, 2010 00:12
Center Tom Herzog didn't see the floor at all in the first half of the Knights 76-59 win over the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (4-5).
That would be hard to guess, though, by looking at his numbers.
Herzog came in early in the second half and sparked the Knights (8-0) with eight blocked shots, tying a school record, and 14 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting performance. The Michigan State transfer, while wearing a soft cast on his injured left wrist, checked in and immediately made an impact, blocking the first shot he contested.
"Going in to halftime I told coach I was ready to play," Herzog said. "In the first half when they were crashing the boards I was thinking ‘Man, I got to get in there'."
The Knights, in front of an announced crowd of 5,094, weathered an intense effort (especially in the first half) from the Wildcats, who went on a 9-2 run midway through the first half to take the lead.
The Wildcats rode forward Alexander Starling's 10 first half points in a back and forth battle as the half ended with 10 lead changes and the Knights up only two, 38-36.
Starling finished with a team-high 16 points for Bethune-Cookman.
"They came out and played really well, which I expected," head coach Donnie Jones said afterwards of their opponent. "I'm not sure if our team gave them the respect level they should have."
The Knights were led in scoring by forward Keith Clanton's 16 points. Clanton, in another well-rounded performance, also registered eight rebounds and five assists, a few of which found their way into Herzog's hands for dunks.
Guard Marcus Jordan also had 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, continuing to shoot over 50 percent for the season. UCF was ranked fourth in the nation in field goal percentage entering the matchup, and continued their sharp-shooting by connecting on 56.8 percent of shots for the game.
The Knights, who despite a dramatic advantage in size, were outscored in the paint 14-10 in the first half. This prompted coach Jones to make some adjustments at the half.
"I really didn't want to play Herzog if I could've kept from it, but thank God he was able to come in and play because he changed the whole game in the second half," Jones said. "Great experience for us because we have to be able to play different ways."
They rode a 10-2 run early in the second half to create some breathing room, effectively breaking the game open. A full-court press was also utilized by the Knights to wear down the Wildcats back court, specifically star guard C.J. Reed, who only had 11 points, well below his season average of 21.
Jones, who has used the press all season with positive results, maintained that the value of his team's press going beyond forcing turnovers.
"The biggest thing we wanted to do was force change, they were dictating the tempo in the first half," Jones said.
The Knights played again without senior forward A.J. Tyler, who Jones says is at least two weeks away from returning. Herzog, who is still not 100 percent, is estimated to be at least a week away from getting fully back into the rotation.
UCF will be back in action Wednesday night, again at the UCF Arena, as the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns come to town. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. as the Knights will look for another victory before traveling to Sunrise to battle ACC opponent Miami.
A win against the Hurricanes would mean a clean sweep for the Knights against in-state competition this season.