UCF to Open C-USA Championship Wednesday

March 8, 2010

By Doug Richards

Follow the Knights in the C-USA Championship Blog, Live from Tulsa

Complete Release in PDF Format

TULSA, Okla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will open the 2010 GMC Sierra Conference USA Championship on Wednesday, meeting SMU at 8:30 p.m. Eastern at the BOK Center. The Knights are the ninth seed at the tournament, while SMU has earned the No. 8 seed.

The winner of the UCF-SMU game will face top-seed UTEP on Thursday at 10 p.m. Eastern in the quarterfinals. UTEP is ranked 21st in the latest ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll.

UCF's (14-16, 6-10 C-USA) young squad concluded the regular season Saturday with a 66-59 victory at Rice. Junior guard Taylor Young (Orlando, Fla.), who has had more of a scoring role as of late for the Knights, led the squad with 14 points, and freshman guard Marcus Jordan (Chicago, Ill.) added 12 points.

In league play, Jordan was the team's top scorer at 10.8 points per game. Fellow freshman Keith Clanton (Orlando, Fla.) led the squad on the glass. The forward averaged 6.5 rebounds against conference foes. UCF's leader, sophomore guard A.J. Rompza (Chicago, Ill.), enters the tournament in the top-10 nationally in steals per game (2.7).

SMU is 14-16 overall and went 7-9 in league action. The Mustangs had a pair of players earn All-C-USA Third Team honors. Papa Dia, who is averaging 12.5 points and 8.7 boards, was voted onto the squad, as was Derek Williams. Williams is fourth in the league in scoring at 16.6 points per game, and has scored at least 20 points on 10 occasions this year.

The contest will air on the UCF-ISP Sports Network and its flagship station, 740 The Game in Orlando. Marc Daniels will have the call from the BOK Center. Live audio and video will be available at UCFAthletics.com.

The C-USA Championship is being held in Tulsa for the first time. Since the Knights joined the league in 2005, Memphis, Tenn., has hosted the tournament each year.

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.

No. 9 UCF-No. 8 SMU Series Information
? UCF and the Mustangs have met five times, and SMU has a 3-2 edge in the all-time series
? The programs have never faced each other on a neutral court
? SMU hosted the Knights on Jan. 27 and the Mustangs posted a 65-43 victory
? The hosts shot 52.5 percent overall, and made 8-of-18 attempts from 3-point range
? Keith Clanton led the Knights with 11 points and seven rebounds

Up Next for the Knights
? The winner of the SMU-UCF contest will face top-seed UTEP in the quarterfinals Thursday evening
? The Miners defeated UCF 96-59 on Jan. 23 at the UCF Arena, and the all-time series is tied, 3-3

UCF at the Conference USA Championship
? The Knights will be making their fifth appearance in the Conference USA Championship
? UCF is 1-4 at the event, with the lone victory coming in 2006, a 66-52 first-round win over East Carolina

UCF in Conference Championship Play Under Kirk Speraw
? Since Kirk Speraw took the helm of the UCF program in 1993, the Knights are 22-11 in league championship contests
? Speraw led UCF to a 21-7 tournament mark in the Atlantic Sun, where the Knights claimed four conference championship titles (1994, 1996, 2004, 2005)

Sonic Youth
? With only three upperclassmen (two juniors and a non-scholarship senior) and 12 underclassmen, UCF is one of the youngest squads in the country
? The Knights have the fourth-fewest amount of upperclassmen in the nation
? Saint Louis and Washington State have just one upperclassman, followed by Toledo with two
? UCF, along with George Mason, Florida Atlantic and Wyoming, have just three upperclassmen

Young Money
? Underclassmen have logged 73.9 percent of UCF's minutes this season
? Freshmen and sophomores are also responsible for 72.9 of the squad's points

Leaders of the New School
? In Conference USA play, both UCF's leading scorer and rebounder were rookies
? Marcus Jordan averaged a team-high 10.8 points, and Keith Clanton led the way with 6.5 boards per game

Balance & Options
? UCF has the most-balanced offense in Conference USA as six players are averaging at least 7.0 points
? On the season, seven Knights have led the team in points - Isaac Sosa (7), A.J. Tyler (7), Keith Clanton (5), Marcus Jordan (4), Taylor Young (4), A.J. Rompza (3) and David Diakite
? Last year, Jermaine Taylor averaged 26.2 points and led the Knights in scoring in 29 of the team's 31 games
? This season, UCF has not had a player pace the team in scoring in more than three-straight contests

Maximum Strength
? UCF has faced the toughest schedule in program history this season
? The challenges started early as the Knights played at three BIG EAST programs and met two SEC squads during the non-conference portion of their schedule
? Both UConn and Ole Miss were ranked 14th nationally when they hosted the Knights
? UCF picked up a big non-league win on Nov. 20 when the Knights cruised to an 84-74 victory over Auburn at the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, giving the school its first triumph over an SEC program

? UCF's young squad has had its share of close losses this campaign
? Ten of the team's 16 defeats have come by 10 points or less
? In seven of the losses, UCF either had a lead or was tied in the second half
? UCF's last three defeats - UAB, Marshall, East Carolina - came by an average of 4.0 points

Hall Pass
? The Knights led Conference USA, averaging 14.9 assists per league game
? UCF was the only squad in the league that had three players - A.J Rompza (5.1, 3rd), Marcus Jordan (3.0, 12th) and Taylor Young (2.6, 14th) - in the top-15 in the conference in assists per game

Take the Lead
? When UCF defeated East Carolina on Feb. 2, Kirk Speraw became the winningest head coach in school history
? In his 17th year with the Knights, Speraw has won 278 contests at the school
? The longest-tenured coach in Conference USA, he is one of just 14 coaches in the nation who have spent at least 17 campaigns at their current school

The Tipping Point
? Keith Clanton arrived at UCF as the most highly-touted recruit in program history
? The Orlando native has not disappointed as he is the team's third-leading scorer at 9.7 points and the Knights' top rebounder, grabbing 6.9 boards an outing
? Clanton has totaled 290 points, which places him fifth on the school Division I freshman scoring list
? In Conference USA play, the former Orlando Christian Prep star averaged 9.7 points
? He scored in double figures eight times against league foes

Step it Up
? Keith Clanton's best games in Conference USA play came against the best competition
? In five total contests against UTEP, UAB, Memphis and Marshall, the forward averaged 14.0 points and 8.0 boards

Chairman of the Board
? Keith Clanton, who ranks 11th in Conference USA in rebounds per game at 6.9, has paced the Knights on the glass 15 times this season
? If the season ended today, Clanton's rebounds per game average would be the highest recorded by a Knight since Roberto Morentin also averaged 6.9 in 2003-04
? Clanton has 206 rebounds in 2009-10, which places him second on UCF Division I freshman rebounds list behind Ken Leeks (268, 1990-91)

The Block is Hot
? Keith Clanton has 44 swats on the year, which places him eighth on the UCF single-season blocks list
? Isaac McKinnon (1982-83) is seventh on the register with 47 blocks
? Clanton ranks fifth in Conference USA in blocks per game at 1.5

Follow the Leader
? In Conference USA play, Marcus Jordan averaged a team-high 10.8 points
? Along with Rice's Tamir Jackson and Tulane's Kendall Timmons, he was one of just three C-USA freshmen who paced their team in points in league play
? Jordan averaged 5.4 points in non-league action, and upped many of his statistics in conference games

Get Away
? Unlike most freshmen, Marcus Jordan has played better on the road than at home
? In 15 away and neutral games, Jordan has averaged 10.3 points on 47.4 percent shooting, compared to 6.3 points on 35.6 percent shooting in Orlando
? Eight of his 11 double-digit scoring performances have come away from home

Big Time
? Marcus Jordan registered his top performances against the biggest names on the UCF schedule
? In non-league games at three BIG EAST (Notre Dame, USF, No. 14 UConn) teams and two SEC (Auburn, No. 14 Ole Miss) squads, Jordan averaged 10.6 points on 63.3 percent shooting overall and a 62.5 percent showing from 3-point range

Pass it On
? Marcus Jordan ranks third on the squad at 2.4 assists per game
? He averaged 3.0 assists in league play, good for 12th in Conference USA
? The freshman led the Knights in assists seven times during the regular season

A Prince Among Thieves
? A.J. Rompza is eighth nationally in steals per game at 2.7
? In Conference USA action, he led the league in the category (2.5)
? Rompza totaled 46 steals in 29 games last year, and has 77 this season
?The Chicago native is sixth on the UCF single-season steals register

Nothing to Lose
? In league games, A.J. Rompza took good care of the ball, ranking third in the conference in assist-turnover ratio (2.5)
? Rompza's most impressive performance came on Feb. 27 in UCF's triple-overtime contest at Marshall
? He matched a school record by playing 51 minutes and registered a career-high 13 assists with only two turnovers
? On the year, he is seventh in the conference in assists per game with 4.5
? Just a sophomore, the Chicago native already ranks eighth in program history with 281 career assists

The Score
? Last season, A.J. Rompza's main job was to get the ball to Jermaine Taylor, who averaged 26.2 points on his way to receiving Conference USA Player of the Year honors
? As a result, Rompza averaged more assists (5.1) than points (4.3)
? This year, Rompza is looking to score more, and is averaging 8.8 points
? Nearly all of his offensive statistics have improved this season

Hey Young World
? Taylor Young developed into one of UCF's top scoring threats at the end of the season
? The redshirt sophomore averaged 17.3 in the team's final three regular-season contests
? Young, who is averaging 7.0 points, entered the year with two double-figure scoring games, and recorded four alone this season in league play

Warning Shots
? Isaac Sosa shot just 21.4 percent (6-of-28) from 3-point range in January, and averaged 5.5 points during the month
? Since the calendar turned to February, Sosa has been on target, making 27-of-59 (45.8 percent) of his tries from deep, and is averaging 11.7 points
? Despite the tough month earlier in the year, Sosa still ranks second in Conference USA in 3-point field goal percentage (42.7)

? UCF's leading scorer on the season at 10.4 points a contest, A.J. Tyler has been accurate with his shot
? On the season, the junior is eighth in Conference USA in field goal percentage (47.4)
? In league games, Tyler shot 50.7 percent from the floor, good for sixth in the conference