UCF recorded some of the most impressive victories in program history in 2011-12. Selecting the top moments from the Knights’ 22-win campaign is no easy task as head coach Donnie Jones’ team had several noteworthy achievements.
The year was filled with firsts for the Knights, who capped the season by making the program’s debut in the National Invitation Tournament. Let’s take a look back at the team’s top-10 victories of the season.
10. Rompza’s Return Sparks Knights
UCF 65, Rhode Island 54
After missing the team’s first 12 games of the season, A.J. Rompza returned to guide the Knights to a 66-54 victory over Rhode Island in the championship game of the UCF Holiday Classic. The point guard logged 30 minutes in a starting role and recorded seven points and six assists. His every move received cheers from the UCF Arena crowd and his return, and UCF’s solid play, showed that bigger wins were on the way for the Knights.
9. Non-Conference Dominance Continues
UCF 61, Old Dominion 53
Facing a team that was coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance, UCF continued its non-conference dominance at home with a 61-53 victory over Old Dominion. The Knights were led by Keith Clanton, who totaled 23 points, 16 rebounds, four blocks and two steals. UCF shot 60.0 percent after halftime and made four of six 3-point attempts. Leading 36-35 with 10 minutes to play, the Knights put together a 12-2 run that gave the team control of the game.
8. Sending Seniors Out in Style
UCF 71, UAB 63
With a 71-63 victory over visiting UAB, UCF did not only give seniors P.J. Gaynor and A.J. Rompza a win in their final home contests, the Knights also secured a coveted first-round bye at the Conference USA Championship. As a result of the win, UCF finished tied for third in the C-USA standings, its best finish in the league since 2006-07. Rompza, who was clearly emotional during the pregame Senior Night ceremony, figured prominently into the win over the Blazers, finishing with 11 points and 10 assists with only one turnover.
7. Holding Off the Herd
UCF 67, Marshall 60
The Knights, who once led by 14 points, got a huge 3-pointer from Marcus Jordan down the stretch to hold off Marshall for a 67-60 win at the UCF Arena. Three 3-pointers and a jumper by Marshall sliced UCF’s lead to 62-60, and the Knights appeared to be in trouble with 15 seconds to go after a jump ball left only two seconds on the shot clock. But Jordan used a Tristan Spurlock screen to get free in the corner, where he buried a 3-pointer that not only secured the win for the Knights, but also relieved every UCF fan in attendance.
6. Making More History
UCF 64, UAB 54
Thanks to a strong defensive effort, UCF posted a 64-54 victory over UAB in Memphis, Tenn., to advance to the Conference USA Championship semifinals for the first time. The Knights built a big lead early and limited the Blazers to only 29.3 percent shooting for the game to post their third win of the season over UAB. Keith Clanton (14 points and seven rebounds) and Marcus Jordan (12 points) both played well for the Knights, who shot 50 percent overall.
5. Strong Finish Leads to Impressive Win
UCF 74, College of Charleston 63
Treating its visit to the Bahamas as a business trip, UCF utilized a strong finish to open the Battle 4 Atlantis with a 74-63 victory over the College of Charleston. The Knights received a strong contribution from Keith Clanton, who matched a career best with 28 points. UCF closed the game with an 18-5 run, and shot 55.6 percent overall in the second half. College of Charleston was coming off of a 72-69 victory at Clemson. Clanton shot 12-of-17 overall, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and added three blocks and two steals in 36 minutes.
4. Complete Performance vs. the Pirates
UCF 81, East Carolina 63
UCF played its most complete game of the season at East Carolina as the Knights rolled to an 81-63 victory over the Pirates. Four Knights finished with double digits in scoring, led by Isaiah Sykes who totaled 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting. UCF also received a huge performance from A.J. Rompza. The senior point guard filled up the box score with 16 points, nine assists, seven boards and five steals. UCF built a 22-point advantage in the second half. The Pirates got within 11 points with 7:12 to go in the game, but UCF responded, getting two buckets from Clanton, a layup from Sykes and a basket by P.J. Gaynor to go back up 19 points. The Knights shot 52.2 percent from the field and finished with a 46-29 rebounding advantage.
3. Knights Hang On for Another Historic Win
UCF 48, UAB 41
For the second time in a week, UCF recorded a victory over a Conference USA opponent for the first time in numerous tries as the Knights built a big lead and then held on for a 48-41 victory at UAB. UCF led by as many as 14 points in the first half, and recovered to get the win after UAB 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. The Knights entered the contest 0-7 all-time versus UAB.
2. Knights Rally to Take Down Defending Champs
UCF 68, No. 4 UConn 63
UCF rallied from a 17-point second-half deficit to post one of the biggest wins in school history, a 68-63 triumph over No. 4 and defending national champion UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals. Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton each scored 20 points as the Knights snapped UConn’s 16-game winning streak. The win over a ranked opponent was just the third in school history for UCF, who also defeated No. 16 Florida last year and No. 25 College of Charleston back in 2002. UConn put together a 10-0 run to take a 50-33 lead with 16 minutes left. The Knights then scored 17 of the next 19 points to pull within two. Jeremy Lamb made a 3-pointer to stretch the Huskies’ lead to five, but they couldn’t hold off the Knights. Jordan converted a layup, then made two free throws to give UCF a 58-57 advantage with just over three minutes left. Jordan added four more foul shots down the stretch to preserve the big win. UCF limited UConn to just 34.5 percent shooting and 25 total points in the second half.
1. A Night to Remember
UCF 68, Memphis 67
Keith Clanton and the Knights gave a huge UCF Arena crowd a night to remember when UCF defeated Memphis, 68-67, in a thrilling contest to post the program’s first win over the Tigers. Once up 13 points in the second half with 16 minutes to play, UCF found itself trailing by two with 42 seconds to play. Then, following a UCF miss and a Memphis miss from the foul line, Clanton corralled a rebound with four seconds to play and finished a layup as he was fouled to tie the game. The Orlando native calmly sank the go-ahead free throw to provide the winning point for the Knights. The clutch play capped a 23-point, eight-rebound night for the junior. After A.J. Rompza came up with a steal on the Tigers’ final possession, many of the students in the crowd of 8,734 fans rushed the court to celebrate UCF’s first win over Memphis in 10 tries.