After intermission, the Fighting Irish (8-1) leaned on two of their upperclassmen as Notre Dame outscored the Knights 49-31 to post a 90-72 victory. Junior Tim Abromaitis totaled 31 points in the win, and Luke Harangody, a senior All-America candidate, scored 19 of his 29 points following halftime to hand UCF’s (6-2) young squad only its second defeat of the year.”That was a great example of a veteran club doing exactly what they needed to do as the game progressed,” UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. “I thought that they did a tremendous job of picking up their defense. Certainly they had a very good tempo on offense, something that is very impressive to me. That certainly comes with a very mature team.”
Notre Dame opened the second half on an 8-0 run, getting five points from Harangody during the spurt. The forward entered the contest averaging over 25 points per game.
“We just didn’t respond when they opened the half with that 8-0 run,” Speraw said. “We struggled to get some looks on the offensive end. We just didn’t defend the way that we hoped to defend.”
The opening stanza featured 11 ties and 16 lead changes. The Knights refused to be intimidated in one of the nation’s toughest environments – the Fighting Irish have won 44-straight non-conference games at home. With sophomore point guard A.J. Rompza (Chicago, Ill.) limited to eight minutes after picking up two quick fouls, UCF still shot 61.5 percent overall in the first half.
Without Rompza in the lineup, freshman forward Keith Clanton (Orlando, Fla.) helped pick up the slack. The heralded freshman scored 10 points in the first half and finished with the best contest of his young career (14 points, seven rebounds). After Clanton hit a pair of free throws, UCF took its largest lead of the game, 17-13, at the 10:33 mark.
The Fighting Irish had a nice boost going into halftime when Abromaitis scored inside as time expired.
UCF had its share of defensive lapses early in the game. Unfortunately for the Knights, the struggles defensively continued after intermission.
“Offensively we had whatever we wanted, but defensively, that was our whole [problem] there. There were a lot of times where they had easy looks,” Rompza said.
The contest was the first true road game of the season for the Knights, who were playing outside of Florida for the first time this year. A Chicago native playing in front of over 50 family members and friends, Rompza finished with 13 points in 27 minutes. Another local product, freshman Marcus Jordan (Highland Park, Ill.), registered a career-high nine points and six boards.