Strong Second-Half Lifts UCF to Exhibition Win


Nov. 4, 2009

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By Doug Richards

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF's young team gave a lively crowd at the UCF Arena plenty to cheer about during the second half of the Knights' exhibition game with St. Leo Wednesday evening. Head coach Kirk Speraw hopes that the squad's performance after intermission, which led to UCF's 84-65 victory, helps the Knights as they prepare for their regular-season opener next week.

UCF shot 53.8 percent from the field, and made 17-of-19 free throws, on its way to outscoring the Lions 47-32 after the break.

"I think our guys played a little more sound in the second half," Speraw said. "[They] got used to the speed and the pace of the game. That is totally different from practice. It is different from high school. I thought that there were some good things out there, both individually and collectively. And there are a lot of things out there that we have got to improve on."

Sophomore forward P.J. Gaynor (Jacksonville, Fla.) led the Knights with 18 points and eight boards, and sophomore guard A.J. Rompza (Chicago, Ill.) added 16 points, seven steals and five assists. In his UCF Arena debut, freshman forward Keith Clanton totaled 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. The heralded freshman added eight boards in 28 minutes.

The first half was a sloppy 20 minutes which featured 19 total turnovers. The Knights played just two upperclassmen with 13 underclassmen in the contest, so that could have been expected.

Speraw says that facing another team was a positive for the Knights, who have been practicing against one another since mid-October.

"There is a lot to learn from [tonight]. Every time you are playing against yourself in practice, and you go out and are competing against somebody else who is new and has a different offense and different defense, it is always an adjustment. We knew that it would be.

The game served as UCF's lone preseason contest. Up next is the Nov. 13 regular-season opener with Massachusetts at the UCF Arena.

Rompza was asked postgame what the Knights need to improve on before the game with the Minutemen. His answer was honest, but showed his confidence in his team.

"Everything," he said before pausing. "A lot of us had jitters. We are all pretty much freshmen and sophomores. But we can't say we are a young team. Yes, we do have a young team, but that does not mean that we cannot play with the best of them. That just means that we need to pickup our intensity. From here, until Friday (Nov. 13), every single practice we need to come ready to play."

Season tickets for the 2009-10 campaign start at only $79 and are available by calling (407) UCF-1000 or by visiting UCFAthletics.com. The Knights will play 15 games at home this season.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.