For the second time this week, UCF recorded a victory over a Conference USA opponent for the first time in numerous tries as the Knights built a big lead early Saturday and then held on for a 48-41 victory at UAB. The Knights topped Memphis Wednesday in a thrilling contest in Orlando and on Saturday at Bartow Arena, UCF (15-4, 5-1 C-USA) defeated the Blazers for the first time in eight meetings.
UCF led by as many as 14 points in the first half, and recovered to get the win after UAB (6-12, 1-4 C-USA) grabbed a three-point advantage with 5:12 to play in the game.
UCF regained the lead when Marcus Jordan found Tristan Spurlock for a huge triple in the corner with 4:28 to play. The Blazers did not score the rest of the contest as UCF hit four free throws in the final two minutes and got a key basket from Keith Clanton down the stretch.
“This game shows the toughness of our team and how we have made strides,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. “I am proud of our effort late in the game. Our guys really executed with the game on the line and that says a lot about our team.”
UAB took the lead on a pair of free throws by Jordan Swing. After Spurlock’s 3-pointer, UCF clamped down defensively. The Knights forced the Blazers to miss four field goals in the final four minutes. Ovie Soko appeared to be heading to the basket with the hosts down one with 2:19 to play, but he was stripped by Spurlock. After Jordan made two foul shots to build UCF’s advantage to three points, Clanton blocked a Jekore Tyler shot with 1:06 left on the clock.
“I feel like we didn’t give up. We had a few big defensive stops,” Clanton said. “We came up with the stops when we needed them.”
The 41 points scored by UAB were the third-fewest allowed by the Knights in program history.
The Knights raced out to a 12-0 lead to start the game as UAB did not score its first basket until the 11:54 mark. UCF’s advantage grew to 18-6 with 7:43 to play in the half after Josh Crittle scored inside.
“We were very poised,” Jones said of his team’s strong start. “We got great shots, and I thought that we did a very good job defensively.”
UCF limited the Blazers to just 6-of-24 shooting for the first half. UCF’s advantage could have been larger, but the Knights were hampered by nine turnovers.
Clanton totaled 10 points for the game and was the only Knight to finish with double digits in scoring. He blocked three shots against UAB and during the second half became UCF’s all-time leader in swats as he has 142 for his career. Jordan added nine points the win.
UCF shot 38.3 percent from the floor and limited UAB to 28.6 percent shooting. Jordan Swing and Cameron Moore each scored 12 points for the hosts.
The contest against the Blazers was the first of two-straight games on the road for the Knights. UCF will meet host Tulsa Wednesday evening. The game will be televised live nationally, starting at 8 p.m. Eastern on CBS Sports Network.
UCF improved to 2-1 on the road with the victory. The Knights have won six of their last seven games.