Knights easily defeat Blazers, snatch first conference victory

Knights easily defeat Blazers, snatch first conference victory

Mike Gramajo / Valencia Voice

Isaiah Sykes (UCF) drives by Robert Williams (UAB) in the first half of Wednesday's Knights first Conference USA victory.

ORLANDO — Power forward Keith Clanton had 12 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks as the University of Central Florida Knights defeated the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers 64-48 on Wednesday, Jan. 9 at the UCF Arena.

The game against UAB marked the conference opener for the Knights, who will be playing their final season in Conference USA before joining the Big East next season.

“This is the last year that even the young guys will be in Conference USA,” said Clanton. “I feel like we want to win it, we feel like we have the team that can do it, so we’re going to go out and play our hearts out.”

UCF started the game by going on a 13-8 run, while all five of the Knights’ starters scored within the first 3:15 minutes of the game.

The opening ten minutes of the first half saw both sides going back and forth, alternating two-pointers.

The Knights went on a 13-4 run midway through the first half to jump out to a 31-20 lead with three minutes left in the half.

UAB went on a 3-0 run to finish the first half, as UCF failed to score any baskets during the final three minutes of the first act.

The Blazers extended their run to 8-0 early in the second half, which brought UAB back even with the Knights at 31-31.

“The game of basketball is just a battle of runs,” said Clanton following the game. “One team might be hot for a second, but you have to always keep your composure.”

UCF hadn’t scored for over seven minutes before Calvin Newell hit a three-pointer to give the Knights a 34-31 lead with 15:20 left to play in the game.

The Knights later responded with a 18-8 run of their own, which was capped off by a Kasey Wilson three-pointer that gave the Knights a 49-37 lead with 9:15 left in the game.

Calvin Newell led UCF with 14 points for the night. Isaiah Sykes added nine points, eight rebounds and six assists for the Knights.

The Knights ended the game on a 12-2 run while on the way to their first conference win of the season. With the win UCF improved its record to 11-4 this season.

“You’ve just got to win,” said UCF head coach Donnie Jones following the game. “It’s conference play, crazy things happen and there is no playing pretty anymore.”

UCF finished the game shooting 42.3 percent from the field compared to 26 percent for UAB.
With his 12 points on Wednesday, Clanton surpassed the 1,500 point mark for his college career.

“He’s just so efficient,” said Jones on his star forward’s 12 point and 13 rebound game. “Most guys sitting in the locker room with that kind of numbers would be disappointed even though we won, but he’s in there happy because we won and that just tells you the kind of winner Keith Clanton is.”

UAB finished the game shooting 0-23 from behind the three-point line, while going 20-77  from the floor. The 0-23 marked the first time the Blazers had gone without a three-pointer since 1996.

“I think we did a good job on the three,” said Clanton on his team’s defensive performance. “But we did a horrible job on the layups.”

UCF goes on to play their next opponent East Carolina on Saturday, Jan. 12 at Greenville.