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Canada exhibition series is no problem

By Steven Ryzewski
On August 14, 2011

They came. They saw. And for the most part, they dominated.

The UCF Knights men's basketball team completed their three game tour of Canada Saturday night with a 100-58 thrashing of the McGill University Redmen.

The game took place in Montreal, Quebec, and with the win the Knights remained undefeated on their foreign trip. UCF beat Carleton University, Canada's top collegiate program, 93-84 on Thursday in Ottawa, Ontario, and the Champlain College-Saint Lambert All-Stars on Wednesday, 88-66, from Saint-Lambert, Quebec.

The foreign tour, allowed by NCAA rules every four years for a program, gave the Knights a chance to get some extra practices and games in before the team reconvenes for preseason camp later in the fall semester.

With quite a few new faces having been added to the roster, including three newly-eligible transfers who sat out last season and three freshmen, the timing for the trip, and its results, worked out quite well for UCF.

"Our guys played hard the whole trip and hopefully this will give us an edge once the season starts in October," coach Donnie Jones said in a release following the trip's conclusion.

The Knights opened up their tour against a team of professional players who'd formerly played for Champlain College-Saint Lambert. UCF led from start to finish, anchored by junior guard Marcus Jordan's 24 points. Junior forward Keith Clanton made his presence felt as well, recording a double-double with 21 points and 13 rebounds and as a team the Knights forced 25 turnovers.

"The press was key," Jordan said to "I think we really wore them down with the press and caused a lot of turnovers and led to a lot of easy buckets for us."

The game that night concluded a long day for the team, whose day started with a 5 a.m. flight, and ended with the contest, played in a gym that seated 500 and did not have air conditioning.

The Knights followed up their opening win by taking on Carleton University the next night. Carleton is the defending collegiate national champion in Canada, and has won seven of the past nine titles. UCF found a way to pick up the 93-84 victory in what was a physical game. Clanton had 25 points for the Knights, and senior forward P.J. Gaynor added 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting.

"Just spot up and make shots," Gaynor said of his mindset entering the contest. "I made shots when I was open."

Jones, who'd been telling his team to expect an intense effort from Carleton, was impressed with his team's effort.

"Our guys handled adversity very well," he said. "[They] played with great determination for the entire game."

UCF had Friday off, and finished up the tour with their third game in four days against McGill on Saturday.

Once again, the Knights led from start to finish in the 100-58 victory. Five UCF players scored in double figures, one of whom was freshman Rod Days who had 13 points.

Sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes added 14 points, and more impressively snagged a game-high 10 rebounds. Sykes has made a reputation for himself in his short time so far with the program as being a hustle player with a nose for the ball, even being referred to at one point last season by Jones as the "glue guy."

Overall, the tour gave Jones a chance to evaluate his players at a much earlier date than usual, and also a chance for the team to bond before the season.

"It was fun, it was good to get out there again," Jordan said. "The fan turnout in Canada was amazing and I think everyone just enjoyed playing together and playing against another opponent."

Hustle Points

- MEAC Player of the Year and former Bethune-Cookman star C.J. Reed has told the Orlando Sentinel he is committed to the Knights after leaving the Wildcats program in the spring. Reed, son of former BCU coach Cliff Reed, left the program following his father's firing. The elder Reed was fired for not cooperating with an investigation into a sexual assault claim where his son, among others, was named. Reed was never formally charged with a crime or arrested.

Reed average 19.1 points per game last season, but will be transferring to the Knights to play point guard, hoping to fill void that will be left after this coming season, which will be point guards A.J. Rompza and Jeff Jordan's last. Transfer regulations require Reed to sit out this season.

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