Undefeated UCF rolls past Miami, 84-78

By Wes Goldberg

Staff Writer

Published: Saturday, December 18, 2010

Updated: Saturday, December 18, 2010

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Katie Dees

 

The UCF Knights completed an in-state sweep Saturday by beating the University of Miami Hurricanes (7-3) as a part of the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise.

The Knights, now 10-0, fell behind in the first half. UCF trailed by 12 points just before guard Marcus Jordan sunk a layup as time expired to bring the score to 43-33 at half time. 

The Knights surged in the second half to take the lead and ultimately win 84-78 in a game that featured a UCF comeback and a power outage at the Bank Atlantic Center that delayed the game about a half hour.

Saturday's win will most likely elevate the Knights into the Top 25 for the first time in school history, an accomplishment not many expected during coach Donnie Jones' first year. 

"This is a special group," Jones said. "They're continuing to work hard, to believe in each other and good things are coming our way right now."

Jones does not want to lose sight of the goal, maybe learning from the football team's disappointment following their first-ever ranking.

"The goal is to be ranked at the end of the year, not at the beginning of the year," Jones said.

UCF is currently the leading vote-getter among non-ranked teams in the Associated Press poll.

The Knights have wins over Stetson, Bethune-Cookman and West Florida, as well as wins over the University of South Florida, University of Florida and now the University of Miami.

Jordan scored a game-high 23 points and received MVP honors, but suffered an ankle injury late in the game that sidelined him for the last couple of minutes. The extent of the injury is not yet known.  Jordan hopes that he will be out for only a couple of days.

Guard Isaac Sosa put up ten points, going two for four from beyond the arc.  Forward Keith Clanton was key in the turn-around, scoring 13 of his 14 points in the second half and finishing with seven rebounds.

"I think they were staying out on [Isaac] Sosa a lot so it made it easier for us to come out and get to the rim," Clanton said.

The Knights started the game with a boom when Jordan found forward Dave Diakite for an alley-oop.   UCF rolled on to a 10-4 lead early before the Hurricanes broke the game open, going on a 17-0 run to take the lead 21-10.

With about six minutes left in the first half the Knights fought back within four at 25-21, but it was not enough to calm the Hurricanes and forward DeQuan Jones, who had two dunks toward the end of the half that excited the Miami fan-base.  The half ended with the Knights trailing 43-33.

The Hurricanes scored first to open the second half and go up 45-33 but the Knights answered by going on a 12-4 run, shooting lights out to close the gap to 47-45 and take momentum.

That was when the lights went out in the Bank Atlantic Center.  Though the arena lost power, the Knights did not. After about a 30 minute delay, the lights came back on, as well as chants of black and gold from the stands. 

"I thought our guys did a good job. You always worry [about losing momentum] but as I tell these guys it's all mental," Jones said.

UCF continued on with a 14-6 run capped off by an Isaiah Sykes layup to take the lead 59-58.  The Knights continued to shoot well and play physical throughout the rest of the game, outscoring the Hurricanes 51-35 in the second half.  UCF shot 76 percent from the field in the second half, an improvement from 33 percent in the first half.

"I thought in the second half our defense was non-existent. We didn't play with any sense of urgency," said Miami Head Coach Frank Haith. "Got to give Central Florida credit; they did a much better job of handling it in the second half."

The Knights have the best record in Florida and in C-USA at 10-0.

"We're building each and every day," said guard A.J. Rompza. "We don't want to take steps back right now and each game we take one at a time."

UCF travels to take on Massachusetts on Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. and opens up conference play on Jan. 5 against visiting Marshall.

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