Keith Clanton leads UCF to win in conference opener, Marcus Jordan gets first start

by Andrew Kennedy

This felt like a must-win game for the Knights going in. It wasn’t going to be a big win but it could have been a big loss.

The Knights would put together a complete game pulling away from the Rice Owls in their home conference opener to get the victory, 77-58.

The Owls led 21-16 following a three-point basket by Trey Stanton with 7:30 left in the first half. The Knights would score the game’s next 17 points while the Owls experienced a scoring drought lasting nearly 7 minutes.

From there on, UCF cruised to victory. They were led by freshman Keith Clanton who had his best game of the season to date, scoring 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 2-for-2 from three, and added 6 boards and 3 blocks.

A change in scenery for the Knights came when freshman Marcus Jordan was named to the starting lineup, replacing Isaac Sosa in that role. Jordan had just 5 points in 19 minutes of action. Sosa ended up with 8 points in 25 minutes, including 2 three-pointers.

Clanton picked up his game after fellow freshman Dave Diakite went down with an apparent leg injury after just 8 minutes of action.

Clanton got help from an especially efficient effort from the field by his teammates, leading to a 53.6 shooting percentage for the game.

The Knights held Rice to just 39.2 percent from the field for the game while their leading scorer, freshman Tamir Jackson, shot just 6-of-16 from the field for 17 points.

A.J. Rompza turned in his second straight double-digit scoring performance, tallying 13 points, 6 assists and 5 steals while connecting on 3-of-7 three-point attempts.

Rompza led the team to a very solid three-point shooting day in which the team made 11-of-23 attempts.

The Knights looked as good as they have all season Saturday night. The key was getting the big performance out of Clanton inside. That opened up more opportunities for the guards to hit perimeter shots and they came through.

The game served as a definite confident boost with the Knights coming off two losses to Jacksonville and Ole Miss. Rice is now a team in the conference that the Knights know they should beat.

UCF will play a tough schedule this coming week that should reveal where the team stands in Conference-USA as they host Marshall Jan. 13 and then travel to conference favorite Tulsa Jan. 16.

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