Sykes leads Knights past UTEP, 63-45
UCF reaches 20 wins in comfortable win over Miners
Published: Saturday, February 25, 2012
Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 16:02
Two teams were protecting important streaks heading into Saturday's matchup of Conference USA foes.
UCF was hoping to seal back-to-back 20-win seasons, and UTEP (14-14, 7-7) had been riding an impressive four-game winning streak that saw the Miners hand out losses to Memphis and Southern Miss; the two top teams in the league.
It was the Knights (20-8, 9-5), though, who came away with a convincing 63-45 win over the Miners (14-14, 7-7), as they only allowed UTEP to tie the game once and never relinquished their lead.
UTEP was unable to regulate the paint, Keith Clanton or Isaiah Sykes.
Sykes played the entire contest with plenty of energy and had a highlight reel play or two to show for it.
Late in the first, the sophomore guard chased down UTEP's Jacques Streeter on a fast break and blocked his attempt only to hustle to the offensive end, grab a missed shot and score the layup. It was a huge play for the Knights to close out the first half leading 25-23.
Sykes finished the game with 23 points, 11 rebounds, one block and a steal.
Clanton added 12 points for UCF on the evening.
The Knights finished the game with a 37-27 rebound advantage with 18 of them coming on the offensive end.
With the win, another 20-win season is in the books for this UCF team, a milestone head coach Donnie Jones said he is proud of.
"It's always a great milestone to get 20 wins for your program, and the credit goes to these kids," Jones said.
The Knights will travel to league-leading Memphis (21-8, 11-3) on Tuesday, where they will play their last road game of the regular season.
The Tigers have gained sole possession of first place in the conference and have been impressive in their last two outings, against East Carolina and Marshall, beating both by at least 20 points.
When UCF hosted Memphis on Jan. 18, they were able to get the close 68-67 win. Clanton converted on a free throw after he was fouled on a shot attempt and the basket went, setting up an and-one opportunity with four seconds remaining in the game.
The victory marked the first time the Knights defeated the Tigers.
"[It's a] great opportunity for us; Memphis is in first place, and we know the value of every chance to go into their place as we're still fighting for an NCAA tournament bid," Jones said.
It's a short week for UCF coming off a big win over UTEP and heading directly to Tennessee on Monday for the Tuesday night contest.
"We'll get in and practice [Sunday] and watch some film, put this game behind us and focus on Memphis," Jones said.
Tuesday's game will be televised on Bright House Sports Network at 9 p.m.