UCF Knights win third straight

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Robert Van Deering / Valencia Voice

ORLANDO — The University of Central Florida Knights just avoided a possible upset, taking the game to the final seconds in a 53-50 non-conference win against the Savannah State Tigers on Sunday afternoon at the UCF Arena.

“We knew that Savannah State was going to be a tough team, they went to the post season last year, we didn’t come out here thinking we would blow them out or anything like that we knew it would be a fight and it was,” said senior forward Keith Clanton.

The Knights got off to a slow start, scoring only 17 points in the first 10 minutes of play, but it didn’t matter as the Tigers started even slower. They scored 12 in the same period.

Savannah State wasn’t helping itself either, seemingly rotating players every time play stopped and not allowing the players on the court any time to establish rhythm.

Although the Knights had a poor shooting half, shooting only 35 percent from the field, the Tigers sent UCF to the free throw line 15 times with the Knights converting 10 of those to maintain a double-digit lead for most of the opening half.

UCF closed the final eight minutes of the half on a 10-4 run allowing them to take a 31-18 lead into the break. They had a huge size mismatch on the Tigers in the paint and allowed them to collect 10 offensive rebounds leading to 11 second chance points in the half.

“As a team we are big and long at every position and I thought our guys did a good job on the glass. We have one of the best rebounders in the country in Clanton,” said UCF head coach Donnie Jones.

The second half opened much differently than the first half ended. Savannah State played with more energy on the defensive end, denying UCF opportunities to get to the basket and forcing them to shoot contested jumpers. With the Knights shooting problems continuing, the Tigers played their way back to within three with about 10 minutes left in the half.

“I don’t think they did anything differently in the second half that threw us off. I just think we stopped playing with energy and stopped playing how we got the lead we started doing more one on ones and let the game get away from us,” said Clanton.

The Tigers were finally able to climb out of their hole with a little over five minutes on a floater by senior Rashad Hassan to take their first lead since halfway through the first half.

After trading baskets up until the last few seconds, the Tigers led 50-49 on a lay in by senior Arnold Louis and let the Knights win with the final

possession of the game.

After taking all but 13 seconds off the clock, sophomore Tristian Spurlock was able to draw a foul and would head to the line where he would make both shots to give the Knights the final lead change.

The win puts the Knights at 3-0 and they look to keep the winning steak alive on Tuesday when they take on a 2-0 Middle Tennessee State at the UCF Arena.