And each time UCF absolutely, positively had to have a stop, it was Jordan who drew the assignment of guarding Houston’s Aubrey Coleman, the nation’s leading scorer.
And after UCF’s thrilling 68-65 defeat of Houston – a game in which Jordan scored 18 points and held Coleman scoreless over the final 4:15 of the game – the freshman guard admitted that he came into the night with a little extra motivation.
“I get hyped up for all the games, but this game was more important to me because after the last win (in Houston on Jan. 20) Aubrey Coleman said that the game was an embarrassment and stuff like that,” Jordan said. “It had me going and I was talking a little bit of stuff, too.”
UCF had to survive a 25-foot 3-point heave from Houston’s Adam Brown at the buzzer, and when the shot rimmed out the UCF Arena crowd of 4,838 breathed a sigh of relief.
UCF (13-12 overall and 5-6 in Conference USA play) swept Houston for the first time in school history. Also, combined with Saturday’s defeat of Tulane, the Knights won consecutive games for the first time since early December. Clearly, the Knights are playing their best basketball of the season down the stretch and hoping to build some serious momentum heading into the C-USA tournament.
“We’re continuing to show signs of being more composed and more patient at critical times in the game,” UCF coach Kirk Speraw said. “We got ourselves down by five early in the second half and Houston is all energized and we maintained ourselves and stiffened defensively. We weathered that and that’s a good sign for our basketball team. We’re starting to understand things better and we’re starting to grow as a basketball team.”
At halftime UCF recognized 264 student-athletes who earned at least a 3.0 grade-point average in the fall of 2009. Of that group, 120 of the student-athletes earned at least a 3.5 grade-point average. Of all of UCF’s student-athletes, 55 percent of them earned at least a 3.0 and 25 percent had at least a 3.5 grade-point average.
Twenty-two UCF student-athletes earned a 4.0 grade-point average in the fall of 2009. Nine UCF men’s basketball players had GPAs of at least 3.0 last semester.
Jordan made all nine of his shots and scored a career-best 23 points when UCF won in Houston back on Jan. 20. He made his first four shots on Tuesday and had 13 first-half points to get UCF off to a good start. And down the stretch, he hit three clutch free throws and held Coleman without a field goal over the final 6:26 of the game.
Coleman, who came into the game averaging 25.6 points per game, scored 26 against UCF, but he made just eight of 24 shots. In two games this season, the Knights and Jordan held Coleman to 15 of 42 shooting.
“Aubrey is definitely going to get his shots up and he’s a great player. He’s going to take a lot of shots and he’s going to make a lot of shots,” Jordan said. “There’s nothing you can do about that. But you just have to stay up into him and make him take tough shots.”
Junior forward A.J. Tyler had 12 points, none bigger than the two coming off his tough put-back basket with 2:45 remaining that gave UCF a 66-65 lead it would not relinquish.
Isaac Sosa continued his revived play of late, scoring 11 points and hitting three 3-pointers. Point guard A.J. Rompza scored eight points, handed out 10 assists and snatched four steals. Rompza entered the game sixth in the nation with 2.8 steals per game. And freshman center Keith Clanton added six points and 10 rebounds, six of which came on the offensive end of the floor.
Speraw made one of the best decisions of the night when he instructed UCF to foul in the closing seconds and leading 68-65. Taylor Young wisely fouled Coleman with eight seconds to play, keeping Houston from getting off a potential game-tying 3-pointer. Then seconds later, UCF’s David Diakite corralled Kelvin Lewis with 2.7 seconds remaining, keeping the Cougars from once again getting off a 3-point shot. Speraw even wanted a foul on Houston’s final heave in the final second.
An agonizing history against Houston taught Speraw that fouling was the right move at the end of the game.
“I’ve played Houston too many times where they have made some uncanny, unbelievable 3-point shots, and I thought it was going to be a night of those when Aubrey Coleman banks one in on the very first possession,” Speraw said. “I’ve been a guy who doesn’t foul for a long, long time. But against Houston that was our best course.”
And Speraw knew that the best course for UCF most of the night was to lean on Jordan on both ends of the floor. Jordan made six of 14 shots, hit three 3-pointers and grabbed eight rebounds in 33 minutes. And at the end of the game, Jordan had the ball in pick-and-roll sets where the Knights depended on him to make the right decisions.
“He’s got the strength and the ability to muscle his way in there,” Speraw said. “And he has an uncanny way to finish in the interior. And people are going to have to start respecting that and it’s going to open up some other people. It’s just another stage in his development as a player.”
Source: John Denton’s Knights Insider appears several times per week on UCFAthletics.com. E-mail John at [email protected]