In nearly every game this season, one UCF player has scored at least 20 points. Most games, that has been either Marcus Jordan or Keith Clanton, but that did not happen last night yet the Knights still defeated the Rhode Island Rams 65-54 to win the Holiday Classic.
A big part of that had to do with the return of A.J. Rompza, who played 30 minutes and dished out six of the team’s 14 assists on the evening to help the offense flow better than it has this month. Clanton scored 13 and Jordan scored 12 but the team was lead in scoring by Isaiah Sykes who had 14 points and was named tournament MVP. Sykes was 4 of 6 from the floor, but more importantly, was 6 of 8 from the free throw line. The Knights were just 15 of 22 from the line on the night, but most of those misses came late in the game when the outcome was already determined. Tristan Spurlock was also a factor in the first half with two 3-point shots, two offensive rebounds, and a authoritative dunk within a four-minute span to help put the Knights out to their first big lead of the game.
UCF has had a trend this season of controlling a team’s top scoring threat and did so again last night neutralizing Orion Outerbridge by holding him to eight points on 3 of 8 shooting in 32 minutes of play. The team employed a heavy dose of zone defense to control the paint and force the Rams to shoot from the outside as Rhode Island missed their first 10 3-point attempts and ended up just 5 of 21 on the night from behind the arc. The Rams were led in scoring by Marcus Powell who scored 21 points but he was the only player to score in double-digits on the evening.
UCF is now 10-3 on the season and kicks off conference play Wednesday night against a 11-2 Tulane team. UCF head coach Donnie Jones will begin serving his three-game suspension imposed by the University for actions related to the NCAA allegations regarding potential recruiting violations by the program. Former Tulane head coach Shawn Finney will lead the team against Tulane, East Carolina, and Houston before Jones takes the clipboard back in time to match up to return to the hostile environment in Huntington, West Virginia where Jones last coached before shocking Marshall and departing for Orlando.