After seven disappointing outcomes against Memphis in Conference USA play that were anywhere from embarrassing to heartbreaking, the Central Florida Knights were finally able to defeat the Memphis Tigers in conference play 68 to 67 in front of the fifth-largest crowd in school history.
The game started off with a 10-2 run by Memphis but UCF controlled most of the first half after that and took a 41-38 lead into the locker room at half. The Knights saw that lead grow to as many as 13 points when they were up 52-39 in the second half only to go ice cold on offense and watch Memphis come roaring back to eventually take a 67-65 lead with 15.1 seconds remaining.
Flash back to last season when it was UCF that held a two point lead against Memphis on the same court but Memphis came back to win on a late three point shot by Antonio Barton. This year, that script was flipped as UCF had the last possession and Keith Clanton was able to fight for his third offensive rebound of the night and get a continuation call on the putback that tied the game. Clanton, who has struggled all season from the free throw line, sank the free throw and UCF applied pressure to the inbounds play and stole the ball from Chris Crawford before Memphis could execute a final shot. Memphis entered the game ranked 29th in the latest RPI rankings while UCF was ranked 65th.
UCF was once again led by Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan who did the heavy lifting on offense. Clanton scored 23 points on 9 of 12 shooting from all parts of the floor while pulling down eight rebounds. Jordan added 20 points on 7 of 13 shooting while Tristan Spurlock added three critical 3-point field goals on the night. Isaiah Sykes was held to just five points but played through an injury to the midsection.
UCF was 8 of 20 from behind the arc and shot 44 percent from the floor and a season high 71 percent from the free throw line converting 12 of their 17 free throws. The hustle board shows the Knights with five steals and six blocked shots while turning it over eight times while Memphis had four steals, three blocks while committing 12 turnovers.
Memphis was led by Will Barton who seemingly scored at will throwing in 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting. Chris Crawford added 12 from the perimeter while Tarik Black scored 10 from the paint. Memphis shot 51 percent from the floor, 64 percent from behind the arc, and 73 percent from the line but still ended up in the loss column thanks to committing four more turnovers and five more fouls than the Knights.
With this victory, UAB is now the only school that UCF has never defeated in Conference USA play and the Blazers are next up on the schedule as the Knights travel to Birmingham on Saturday to face UAB. The Blazers are coming off their first victory in conference play as they defeated the Rice Owls 61-60 in overtime tonight in Houston. The win by UAB snapped a four-game losing streak that included close loses to both Memphis and Marshall in Birmingham and a four-point loss to Southern Mississippi on the road.