John Denton's Knights Insider - UCF Improves to 6-1


Dec. 1, 2009

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By John Denton

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - It's not that UCF's men's basketball coach Kirk Speraw has completely banned A.J. Tyler from shooting 3-pointers; it's just that he wants the 6-foot-9 power forward to find more balance in his game and give the Knights the inside presence they so desperately need.

Focused more on battering foes inside with his post moves and shooting mid-range shots instead of 3-pointers, Tyler came through in a big way in UCF's 80-62 defeat of Division II Newberry on Tuesday night.

Tyler used his decided height advantage inside to hit eight of 14 shots and score 16 points to go with nine rebounds. He came into the game having made just one of 14 3-point tries and he didn't attempt a three on Tuesday night. Instead, he stroked in four jumpers from the free throw line.

``I started going inside in this game and in previous games I started floating outside too early,'' Tyler said. ``I got a rhythm going inside and then I stepped out to the free throw line instead of the 3-point line where I haven't been shooting too well. This year I'm posting up harder and trying to do more work (inside). We have a lot of great guards, so I don't need to act like a shooting guard. I'm inside trying to establish myself and if it's not there's I'll kick it out and let the guards handle the perimeter.''

Tyler got help from Taylor Young (11 points) and Keith Clanton (10 points) on a night when the Knights shot 50 percent from the floor. Young made three of four 3-pointers, while Clanton, a true freshman, added nine rebounds and a block.

Despite being the nation's second-youngest team, UCF improved to 6-1 overall. But with a big game ahead at Notre Dame on Sunday, Speraw was hardly satisfied with the effort from Tuesday. The Knights already own victories this season against Auburn and UMass, but Speraw has been upset for some time about his team's sloppy practice habits. He thinks that showed Tuesday night when Newberry (3-3) outrebounded UCF 40-31 and made 50 percent of its field goals in the second half.

``We're in a stage right now where we're playing like we're practicing and we've got to correct that,'' Speraw said. ``We haven't had the focus and energy that we've needed and it's carrying over to the games. Our lack of execution on offense and defense is a direct result of what we're doing in practice. So I've got to find a way to get more out of them in practice.''

The game featured the return of former UCF assistant coach Steve DeMeo, who is in his first season at Newberry. His team came into Tuesday on a three-game winning streak and he admitted that it was somewhat surreal coaching against some of the UCF players that he recruited and helped develop.

``Our guys did a good job battling against a very good basketball team,'' DeMeo said. ``Coach Speraw does a phenomenal job with his guys and I know a lot of people are probably surprised that they are 6-1 with such a young team, but they get the most out of every single guy on their team. They were a tough battle for us.''

Tyler had a big game (19 points) in UCF's biggest win against Auburn, but Tuesday's effort was his most complete because of the way he attacked Newberry.

Speraw has stressed to Tyler that he has to work harder on the low block to get the ball and he's informed the wing players to look for him more. And he wants Tyler to utilize his jump hook more and his 3-point stroke less.

``He's a little more willing to go get something done in the interior now,'' Speraw said. ``He's got good post moves down there and we want him to go down there and have a good balance of inside and outside. We'd like for him to get it more, but he has to do a better job of getting better position. (Tuesday) he did a better job of not drifting to the 3-point line. His shot selection and shot purpose was better.''

Point guard A.J. Rompza added seven points and seven assists for the Knights. His nifty up-and-under reverse layup midway through the second half put UCF up 59-43 and sent the Knights on their way to their sixth win in seven games.

Freshman Marcus Jordan played his most complete game of the season, giving UCF four points, three steals and two assists off the bench.

John Denton's Knights Insider appears several times per week on UCFAthletics.com. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.