John Denton's Knights Insider: UCF Seeking More In-State Success

Dec. 17, 2010

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By John Denton

SUNRISE, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Having already notched season-defining victories against Florida and South Florida and getting off to the best Division I start in school history, the UCF's men's basketball team can take another major step forward with a victory against Miami on Saturday.

First, a defeat of the Hurricanes (7-2) would give the Knights (9-0) major basketball bragging rights in Florida, an area where it is trying to spread its recognition in recruiting circles. Also, a victory would also likely vault the Knights into the Top 25 national rankings for the first time in school history. And by doing that, it would shed some national attention on the fact that new coach Donnie Jones and the Knights have something special in the works this season.

``(Recruiting) is why we play these games. We want to be able to play in our state and recruit in our state and it's important for people to see us play,'' Jones said. ``Any time you can beat teams in your state and from the higher conferences it's good for your program. We're trying to build to that. And with our identity and brand, you are selling those things every time you play. You want them to be identified through success. Hopefully, we'll be able to let people know that we have a great school here and a great program and we have a lot to offer. We want to continue to improve and get better.''

UCF has gotten better as this season has gone along, rolling to the best start since UCF moved to the Division I ranks in 1984. The Knights have taken to Jones' attacking, up-tempo style and have regularly hammered teams with their depth and talent. UCF is one of just 12 undefeated teams in the nation.

The UCF-Miami showdown is a part of the Orange Bowl Classic at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise. Tipoff is at 1 p.m.

For just the fourth time in school history, the Knights received votes in both national polls last week and could be poised for a spot in the Top 25 by beating Miami. But the `Canes will be arguably the best team the Knights have faced yet, having already beaten Mississippi and West Virginia. Miami lost to Conference USA powerhouse Memphis in early November. Miami did beat Stetson 68-54 earlier in the week. UCF routed the Hatters 85-58 in late November.

``I know they have two very good guards (Malcolm Grant and Durand Scott) and I have a lot of respect for (head coach) Frank Haith. He's a terrific coach and his teams are playing good,'' Jones said. ``They beat two terrific teams in West Virginia and (Mississippi), so you know they have to be playing at a pretty high level. We'll have to do a good job to get us ready to go down there and compete on that level.''

Standout sophomore forward Keith Clanton, who scored 22 of his 28 points in the second half of Wednesday's rout of Louisiana, said that having gutted out big wins against Florida and South Florida will help the Knights realize the level that they need to be at against Miami.

``We know they're going to be a good team,'' said Clanton, UCF's leading scorer (17.0 ppg.). ``We know they are going to come out and play hard, so we have to play harder for 40 minutes with high intensity.''

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