Knights easily defeat Owls 78-67, gain third conference win

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Courtesy of UCF Athletics

UCF's Calvin Newell scored 24 points in the victory over Rice.

ORLANDO – Calvin Newell had a career high 24 points on Wednesday, as the University of Central Florida Knights defeated the Rice Owls 78-67 on Jan., 23 at the UCF Arena in Orlando.

“Basically I’m just getting more confidence,” said Newell about his 24 point performance. “I’m getting more comfortable with my team.”

Newell’s teammate Isaiah Sykes also had 24 points for the Knights, while forward Tristan Spurlock added 14 points and 12 rebounds of his own.

Rice forward Seth Gearhart hit back-to-back three pointers to give the Owls an early 18-11 lead with 12:44 remaining in the first half.

“It’s hard to take the drive and the three-point line away,” said UCF head coach Donnie Jones about the early three-pointers. “So we had to live with some of those going down.”

Midway through the first half Rice was leading UCF 22-17, while shooting 5-6 from behind the three-point line.

“Give them credit,” said Jones about the early run. “We talked about the three-point line being a factor and we gave up five right off, then we gave up five the rest of the game.”

Newell started the game shooting 3-5 from behind the line and had 12 of UCF’s first 17 points.

“I think he’s slowed down,” said Jones of Newell’s improvement. “The games slowing down for him now instead of out there trying to do too much.

UCF went on a 11-0 run to jump out to a 25-22 lead with 7:51 left to play in the first half.

The Knights’ run ended when Rice’s Keith Washington hit a three pointer to tie the game at 25-25.

Rice finished the half on a 8-3 run, which brought the Owls back even with the Knights at 32-32 going into halftime.

At halftime Isaiah Sykes lead all scorers with 14 points, three rebounds and a block.

“In the first half I was ducking in,” said UCF forward Tristan Spurlock. “But Calvin had it going in the first half, him and Isaiah really carried us that first half.”

Senior forward Keith Clanton had zero points, four assists and two rebounds at the half. Clanton’s one first half shot was a three-pointer.

“It’s frustrating for Keith tonight,” said Jones after the game. “I don’t think he’s ever had a game here where he didn’t score a field goal, but he’s got to continue to work.”

UCF started the second half on a 16-7 run, which gave them a 48-39 lead with 15:36 remaining in regulation time.

Midway through the second half Rice went on a 14-6 run to cut the Knights lead to 56-54, but the Knights responded with a 16-10 run of their own to finish out the game and leave the UCF Arena with a 78-67 victory over the Owls.

“We’ve been there so many times,” said Spurlock of Rice’s late comeback. “For us it was nothing that we didn’t expect.”

“When you’ve got a team that shoots threes like that, that’s an equalizer,” added Spurlock

Clanton finished the game with ten rebounds, five rebounds and three points. Clanton’s teammate Tristan Spurlock had a double-double for the game with 14 points and 12 rebounds of his own.

“There’ll be a lot of great nights for Keith Clanton,” said Jones. “But our team found a way to win tonight.”

With the win UCF improves its record to 13-5 and 3-1 in Conference USA.

The Knights’ next game will be Saturday, Jan. 26 at 4:00 p.m. against SMU at home.