UCF had beaten the Stetson Hatters in each of their previous 11 encounters and last night made it an even dozen as UCF defeated Stetson 80 to 70 in the first round of the EA Sports Holiday Classic Tournament.
Marcus Jordan led all scorers with 26 points in 33 minutes of play but Isaiah Sykes bounced back after two disappointing games with 20 points in 34 minutes. Sykes also grabbed nine rebounds and had four steals. As teams continue to double-down on Keith Clanton in the block, other Knights have to step up and Tristan Spurlock did just that last night. Spurlock scored 13 points on 3 of 7 shooting including two 3-point shots to help get UCF out to its biggest lead before halftime. The game was tied at 18 at the midway point of the first half but that is as close as the game got the rest of the way.
Stetson was led by Adam Pegg who had 17 points in 28 minutes of play. Pegg was 6 of 13 from the floor and was very effective in the post on both ends of the floor. Chris Perez and Aaron Graham came into the game as Stetson’s leading scorers and the duo pumped in 29 points in 59 minutes of play but was just 9 of 26 from the field.
UCF takes on surprise winner Rhode Island tonight in the tournament title game as the Rams knocked off James Madison last night 79-60. The Rams and Knights faced off last season in the CBI tournament with UCF winning 66-54. UCF trailed in that game by three at half after shooting 30 percent from the floor but shot a blistering 68 percent from the floor in the second half on their way to victory. This year’s Rams’ team has a new point guard in Billy Baron, who also happens to be the son of head coach Jim Baron. Baron, who was a mid-season transfer from the University of Virginia, had 17 points in 27 minutes of play last night. The Rams were led by Orion Outerbridge who scored 22 points which included three 3-pointers, had nine rebounds, and blocked three shots. Outerbridge was a non-factor in last year’s game and Baron was not a part of the roster.
UCF welcomes back their own roster addition tonight as senior point guard A.J. Rompza regains his eligibility after missing the first 12 games due to a NCAA-imposed suspension. His return could not come at a better time as a big part of the Rams’ surprise victory last night was their ability to employ effective pressure on James Madison University in the back court. This will be the last game for UCF before they tip off Conference USA play on Wednesday night as they host the Green Wave of Tulane.