Knights click in second half, defeat Old Dominion 61-53
Clanton has big night, double-double helps fuel win
Published: Saturday, December 17, 2011
Updated: Monday, December 19, 2011 13:12
Following a low-scoring first half the UCF Knights' (8-2) offense clicked in the second half of Saturday's game against Old Dominion (5-5), allowing the Knights to beat the Monarchs, 61-53, in an effort driven by the free-throw line and the perimeter.
For UCF, it was an important win over a team that appeared in the NCAA Tournament a season ago.
"Tonight was like a conference game," coach Donnie Jones said.
The contest was a defensive, physical battle between the Knights and the Monarchs. Officials whistled both teams for a combined 44 fouls on the evening.
"It was a grinding game, and that's kind of who we've become [is] a grinding basketball team," Jones said.
Junior forward Keith Clanton came up huge with a game-high 23 points and 16 rebounds, seven of which were offensive boards. The Orlando-native also rejected four shots on the night.
"Coach just told me don't try to force [anything], just take what they give you" Clanton said.
Clanton shot efficiently from the field, including three-for-three on three-point attempts, but the junior shot poorly from the free-throw line, making only four-of-eight attempts.
Coming out of a game on Tuesday where he tied his career-high in scoring (28 points), junior guard Marcus Jordan was effective from the free-throw line, going nine-for-12.
Jordan explained afterwards that his game plan was to come out aggressive and draw fouls.
"Coach talked to us in the locker room and we just wanted to come out and be aggressive, get into the paint and draw some more fouls," Jordan said.
Jordan finished with 17 points, knocked down two of his four three-point attempts and dished out four assists.
During the first half, both the Knights and the Monarchs had trouble scoring. Sophomore forward Tristan Spurlock came off the bench and hit back-to-back three-pointers late in the first half to help create some momentum for UCF. The announced crowd of 4,621 erupted when Spurlock nailed a three-pointer as time expired in the half, allowing the Knights to take a 26-22 lead into the break.
"It was big," Jordan said of Spurlock's shot. "Anytime you get the momentum going into half time [it] is a great feeling."
Spurlock's buzzer-beater gave UCF an extra lift to start the second half, with the Knights leading by as many as 11 points, but the Monarchs battled back to reduce the lead to a five-point deficit with around three minutes left in the game.
Some key free throws by Jordan and Clanton, though, ensured Old Dominion would get no closer, with the Knights holding on for the win.
"I've been really proud of this team in how we've found ways to win," Jones said. "I put on the [whiteboard] ‘Don't make excuses, just make things happen'...I think tonight we were a team that made things happen and that's what we have to do. Great teams have to battle through adversity."
On deck for UCF is a trip to Louisiana-Lafayette (5-8) on Wednesday, with the Knights squaring off with the Ragin' Cajuns at 8 p.m.