UCF was aggressive from the start in what turned out to be a physical contest – 49 total fouls were called in the game. The Knights led 41-24 at the break behind 53.8 percent shooting from the field.
“We had to come out and play strong, especially against an SEC team,” said sophomore guard A.J. Rompza (Chicago, Ill.), who finished with 11 points and five assists. “They are one of the better teams in their conference. We knew we had to come out and play strong, and we knew we had to come out and play as a team.”
A large contingent of UCF fans made the trip to Daytona. The supporters, especially a rowdy group of students, watched UCF’s young players perform well. Redshirt freshman forward Dave Diakite (Washington, D.C.) used his athleticism to dominate in the first half. Diakite finished with 12 points and 10 boards, and brought UCF’s fans to their feet with a dunk on a fastbreak following a Rompza steal that put the Knights up 66-49 with 8:53 to play.
Freshman forward Keith Clanton (Orlando, Fla.) had another strong performance, logging 10 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. After two tough games at home, freshman guard Marcus Jordan (Highland Park, Ill.) looked comfortable against Auburn and ended the contest with seven points.
Tyler, who has been slowed by injuries early in the year, entered the game averaging 5.0 points. He shot 6-of-10 overall, and went 6-of-7 at the free-throw line.
“I am feeling good. I just wanted to come out and establish myself and have a lot of energy,” he said. “I wanted to come in and establish myself inside, and it worked out well for us tonight.”
After the game, Speraw was asked about the significance of a win over an SEC team.
“I am just proud of our guys for the effort they had, especially early. I thought our defense was critical early,” he said. “It kind of kept them off balance early in the game. And when they kept making runs at us, I thought we had a pretty decent response. It is a good win for this team.”
In the locker room after the game, Speraw told his players to enjoy the victory, but to quickly get ready for Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. tilt with a 2-1 Niagara squad. According to Rompza, the Knights are pleased with their effort against Auburn, but are already thinking about the Purple Eagles.
“We’ve already put that one aside,” Romzpa said. “We can’t celebrate though. It is tournament time, and that is what a tournament is. You have to go right to the next game. We have Niagara and they are a great team. We just need to come out and play with the same intensity and play as a team again.”