Breaking Down the Glenn Wilkes Classic

by Andrew Kennedy

The UCF Basketball team is off to an exciting start to the year and is now 5-1 (counting the exhibition) after a successful trip to Daytona for the weekend.

I was planning on going to at least one of the games this weekend but tickets seemed to not exist online and I wasn’t going to take the risk of a three-hour roundtrip drive.

Anyway, I’ll do my best breaking down the games from the stats and reports I got.

UCF 84, Auburn 74

Dubbed an SEC-power in the UCF previewing articles, Auburn was anything but as the Knights jumped on top early cruising to a 17-point half time lead.

Clearly a team that thrives on up-and-down, freelance hoops (evidence by the fact that they took 39 threes in the game and hacked like crazy in the game), Auburn could not come back and the Knights won 84-74.

A.J. Tyler had his best game of the season so far. I’m not sure if he boxed out for the eight rebounds he grabbed but he came through in leading the team with 19 points (1-2 from 3-point land). If he can keep up that kind of play offensively, it will open up a lot of options for other players on the court and I’m assuming he looked a little healthier than he has in the first few games this season.

Keith Clanton continues to come off the bench and Tyler’s strong play in the tournament may keep Clanton in that role for now. Clanton played like a freshman in terms of turning the ball over (otherwise he plays like an old man backing down his son in the post in his driveway) with six in the game but was productive otherwise filling the stat sheet with 10 points, five boards, four steals and two blocks.

I think Clanton is still feeling his way around the team and the offense and that might explain the high turnover numbers right now. It’s a good thing though because it means he has the ball in his hands a lot and is trying to make plays, which the team needs from him (I am a firm believer that turnover totals should count for you in fantasy basketball because all the best players have a lot of them).

Three other players joined Tyler and Clanton in scoring double-figures: Dave Diakite, Taylor Young and A.J. Rompza.

Diakite had double-digit rebounds for the second straight game with 10 including four on the offensive side. He also continues to draw contact when looking to score as he got to the line six times and made four. The more free throws, the better with Diakite. As long as he is attacking, I’m happy.

Young, after leading the team in scoring against Howard with 15, dropped 12 against the Tigers and looked for his shot a lot more than UCF fans should be used to. He made 4-of-8 shots from the field and 4-of-5. I think I speak for all of UCF Basketball Nation when I say I am finally satisfied seeing Young take more shots. No 3-point shooter in the past two years has passed up more good lucks from three than this guy.

Speaking of 3-point shooters, Isaac Sosa is one. It seemed like the team didn’t really need Sosa in this game. It was a more physical game dominated by pressure on ball handlers, an environment Sosa doesn’t thrive in, so he was limited to just seven points on 2-of-6 shooting and 1-for-3 from three.

The UCF tandem of point guards, Young and Rompza, each had five assists in the game. Rompza added 11 points while doing most of his damage from the line (9-11).

Rompza’s BFF, Marcus Jordan, finally scored this season making all of his attempts, good for seven points including a 3-pointer in the game. Now that he’s got that monkey off his back, it would be nice to see him step up his game and live up to the name on the back of his jersey (or maybe just watch some tape of Dave Noel and go from there).

The win was an impressive one much like the season opener against UMass. Hopefully this team can keep impressing as the season goes on.

Niagara 63, UCF 46

I don’t know what happened here. It seemed like everything was clicking for this team but they really laid an egg against Niagara (3-1).

After having to take just nine 3-pointers in the win against Auburn, UCF jacked up 23 threes in this loss and made just four.

Sosa was pretty limited again with just seven points and 3-of-9 from the field.

Tyler led the team in scoring again with 12 points but was the only guy in double-figures. He was 5-of-12 from the field though and 0-4 from downtown.

Clanton had six more turnovers in this game and scored just six points to go with eight boards. It is important to remember that he is the best player on this team so I will always note his production.

Diakite was absent fouling out in just 11 minutes and didn’t score (huh, maybe that’s why we didn’t win).

Overall the team was probably just a little hungover from the amount of games they’ve been playing to start the season so I’m not too worried about a loss like this. Niagara is a solid team that makes the tournament every now and then so this is definitely not a “bad” loss, just would have been nice to go 3-0 in this tournament and stay undefeated.

Some other key stats revolve around the turnover margin. UCF as a team turned it over 23 times and gave up 20 points off turnovers to Niagara and 11 fast break points while the Knights had just two.

Other than that, Niagara just shot a little better from three and from the field in general which made up the difference in points for the game.

The good news is the Knights bounced back on Sunday with a 59-50 win over The Drake (Seinfeld).

UCF 59, Drake 50

This was the least amount of points UCF has scored in a win this year, always a good sign when you can win while playing difference styles and tempos of games.

UCF shot 51.2 percent for the game while Drake posted a mark of just 31.0. The Drake took 15 more shots than UCF in the game triggered by 10 offensive rebounds probably due to 26 3-point attempts, which they made just six of (and they were 1-for-11 in the second half which probably didn’t help their comeback).

The Knights corrected some mistakes from the last game and cut the turnovers down to 14 for the game with Clanton turning in a much better game with no turnovers (yay!).

Clanton made all three of his field goal attempts but missed all three of his free throws for six points, four boards and four blocks (which tells me Drake wasn’t very big with Clanton getting a lot of blocks like that, whatever he’s nasty).

Sosa led the way with five threes for 15 points. He was back to his old self with all nine of his shot attempts coming from the land of plenty. It will be nice to hopefully have him back on track with two home games coming up after Thanksgiving.

After the goose egg versus Niagara, Diakite came back with another strong performance against Drake. He had 10 points and eight rebounds. It’s really only a matter of time before he breaks out with a monster game; I’m thinking 17 and 15 or something like that.

P.J. Gaynor finally caught my eye as he was clearly critical in the game scoring 11 points and going 5-for-5 from the floor. He had been kind of quiet in the last couple of games but it’s good to see him come around with a nice showing like this, especially if he’s going to keep his starting role.

It would be interesting though to see Clanton get the start sometime soon. Gaynor is a perfect fit for someone off the bench as he is an energy guy and Clanton just seems too cool and calm to not be starting, and the bump in minutes could provoke an offensive explosion from the freshman. It doesn’t have to happen yet but I do think it could be a nice role swapping for this team.

So the Knights are looking good. I really wish I had made the trip for at least the Auburn game but were just six days away until their next game vs. Albany where they will look to improve upon their 4-1 record.

Photo courtesy of www.ucfsports.com.

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