For the first six games of this season, the Knights have been lead most nights by Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan. Tonight, they and the rest of the Knights jumped on the back of Isaiah Sykes who led the way with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and a show-stopping blocked shot in a 67-48 defeat of the Hartford Hawks.
UCF jumped out to an early 27-8 lead that included a 21-0 run and then seemingly shut down for the rest of the first half on a series of turnovers and poor shot selection. After the Hawks recovered from the initial onslaught by UCF, they worked the game to within six points at half and got the game as close as four points with ten minutes left to go before running out of gas and bodies due to foul trouble.
The Knights shot just 38 percent from the floor and were only 3 of 13 from the arc. UCF spent most of the second half of the contest on the free throw line as Hartford was fouling early and often and the Knights shot 71 percent on 22 of 31 from the line.
Sykes had a tremendous all-around game going 9 of 14 from the floor, 4 of 6 from the line, and hauling in six offensive rebounds on the night. Sykes’ game is more of a slasher as he is still developing his shooting range, but he has an uncanny knack for being in the right place on put backs and loose balls and his hustle on the defense end of the court sets the example for the rest of the team. Even on the best offensive night of his young career, the play of the night was Sykes breaking up a 3 on 0 fastbreak from behind with an incredible shot block on what appeared to be an easy lay-up.
The Hawks’ defensive efforts were to double-team Clanton any time he touched the ball in the paint and pressure Jordan any time he had the ball in his hands anywhere on the court. The due combined to shoot just 5 of 19 from the floor and Clanton had only four of those attempts. That strategy is one the Knights can expect to see more frequently once conference play begins until a consistent third option steps up for the Knights on the offense. Tonight, that was Sykes but that could also be Tristan Spurlock on other nights. Spurlock had the other double-double on the team with 10 points, 11 rebounds (7 offensive) two steals and two blocks in 30 minutes of strong all-around play.
The team has a busy week off the floor with final exams this week before taking on Bethune-Cookman College next Saturday at 5pm at the UCF Arena. Last season, the two teams faced off on December 3rd and the Knights were victorious 76-59 behind 31 points from Clanton and Jordan as well as another 14 points and 8 blocks from senior center Tom Herzog.