2010-11 Men's Basketball Review: Top Games

March 30, 2011

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By Doug Richards

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - In a season filled with some of the most impressive victories in program history, selecting the top moments of the 2010-11 campaign at UCF is no easy task. In head coach Donnie Jones' first year at UCF, the Knights had dozens of noteworthy achievements.

The end result of the 21-win campaign, which was just the sixth 20-victory season since UCF joined the Division I ranks in 1984, is that the program is clearly headed in the right direction.

Before the focus shifts solely on the future, let's take a look back at the team's top-10 games of the past year.

10. Running Past the Rams
UCF 66, Rhode Island 54 (March 21)

The Knights used a dominating second-half performance to roll to a 66-54 win over visiting Rhode Island and advance to the CBI quarterfinals. UCF trailed 30-27 at halftime, but shot 68.0 percent overall in the second half when it outscored the Rams, 39-24. The hosts made 17-of-25 field goals after intermission, and limited Rhode Island to 39.1 percent shooting. Keith Clanton led UCF with 16 points and nine boards. After he got off to a hot start, Rhode Island star Delroy James was limited on the offensive end by UCF's Isaiah Sykes, who totaled four steals. The Knights dominated inside, finishing with a 44-28 edge on the glass and scoring 48 of its 66 points in the paint.

9. Answering the Challenge
UCF 68, Princeton 62 (Dec. 30)

With his No. 19/21 Knights down by eight points at halftime to a Princeton squad that would eventually win the Ivy League title and nearly defeat Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, Donnie Jones challenged his team to clamp down defensively and stop the Tigers' cerebral offense. As they did all throughout the non-conference season, Jones' squad responded, and the result was a hard-fought 68-62 victory that gave the Knights the UCF Holiday Classic presented by EA Sports championship. With tournament MVP Marcus Jordan scoring 22 of his 26 points after the break, UCF shot 50.0 percent after intermission when the team outscored the Tigers 39-25. But it was defense that helped UCF snap the Tigers' eight-game winning streak and finish non-league play without a loss. Princeton shot just 35.0 percent in the second half, and Jordan helped limit Dan Mavaraides, who totaled 18 points in the opening stanza, to just two points after halftime. The Knights also did not allow Princeton to score a field goal during the final five minutes of the game.

8. Knights Grind Out Win Over the Bulls
UCF 65, USF 59 (Nov. 18)

In only its third game under Donnie Jones, UCF showed that it could win games even when the Knights did not fill up the scoreboard. Thanks to some tough defense, and a gritty performance from A.J. Rompza, the Knights grinded out a 65-59 win over rival USF in front of 7,653 fans at the UCF Arena. Twice down by a point in the second half, UCF stayed in the game thanks to its defense. At one point, the hosts got four defensive stops in a row and used a 10-0 run late in the second half to build a lead. Down the stretch, UCF made key free throws to secure its second win over the Bulls in the past three seasons. Rompza led UCF with 15 points and added five rebounds, four assists and two steals.

7. Overcoming Injury Adversity at UMass
UCF 64, UMass 59 (Dec. 22)

Playing for much of the game without Marcus Jordan, and battling other injuries, UCF overcame plenty of adversity to pick up a 64-59 win at UMass that improved the team to 11-0. The Knights won thanks to their tough defense - they limited UMass to just 31.8 percent shooting and a 2-of-22 (9.1 percent) showing from deep - and clutch free throws down the stretch. Isaac Sosa played all 40 minutes and led the Knights with 14 points, and Keith Clanton added 13 points and eight boards in 39 minutes. Sosa started at shooting guard in place of Jordan. With David Diakite and P.J. Gaynor suffering injuries during the game, Jordan, who was averaging 16 points at the time, logged 15 minutes - all in the second half - and hit five free throws and finished with seven points.

6. Rompza Saves the Day
UCF 65, Southern Miss 64 (Feb. 26)

A.J. Rompza scored only three points against visiting Southern Miss, but his sole bucket was certainly most important for the Knights. The point guard, who endured a nagging foot injury all season, buried a 23-foot 3-pointer with 3.8 seconds remaining to give UCF a 65-64 win over Southern Miss, knocking the Golden Eagles out of first place in Conference USA. With the hosts trailing 64-62 with 11 seconds to play, Marcus Jordan rebounded a missed Southern Miss free throw and pushed the ball up the court. He made an attempt to drive for the tie, but when he was cut off by a pair of defenders, he found Rompza on the right side of the court, who drained the go-ahead 3-pointer. The shot sent the crowd of 7,402 fans at the UCF Arena into a frenzy, and Rompza jumped onto the courtside table to celebrate after the final horn sounded.

5. Taking the Knightmare to DeLand
UCF 85, Stetson 58 (Nov. 23)

On a night where Stetson's Edmunds Center was filled with UCF fans, the Knights gave their supporters plenty to cheer about. Thanks to Isaac Sosa's plethora of first-half 3-pointers and plays like Marcus Jordan's huge dunk at the end of the game, UCF fans were loud in DeLand. Sosa came off the bench and jump-started UCF's offense early in the game, scoring 22 points and hitting six 3-pointers as the Knights eventually pulled away from the Hatters in an 85-58 victory. Late in the contest, Jordan stole an in-bounds pass near the free-throw line, dribbled twice and then dunked over two Stetson players for the first dunk of his college career.

4. Defense Helps Knights Smother Thundering Herd
UCF 65, Marshall 58 (Jan. 5)

UCF's offense got much of the attention at the start of the season, but maybe it was the team's defense that led to the impressive 14-0 start. Against Marshall in the Conference USA opener for both teams at the UCF Arena, the Knights were down four points with 7:35 to play when they picked up the pressure on the defensive end. The Knights forced the Thundering Herd to miss eight-consecutive shots and go more than six minutes without a field goal. As a result, No. 19/18 UCF grabbed the lead and held on for a 65-58 victory. The Knights blocked 11 shots, held Marshall to just 28.0 percent shooting in the second half and 33 percent shooting for the game, and gave up just two 3-pointers.

3. Big Rally Leads to a Ranking
UCF 84, Miami 78 (Dec. 18)

Seventeen days after recording the biggest win in school history, UCF used a dominant second-half performance to knock off another state power and propel itself into the national rankings for the first time in school history. Once down as many as 12 points in the second half, UCF outscored Miami 51-35 after intermission to pick up an 84-78 win over the Hurricanes at the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise. The Knights were led by game MVP Marcus Jordan, who scored 23 points. UCF aggressively attacked the rim after halftime and shot 76.5 percent (15-of-20) in the final 20 minutes. Just two days after the win over the Hurricanes, UCF entered the top 25 at 24th in the Associated Press poll.

3. Total Team Effort Leads to Impressive C-USA Win
UCF 74, UTEP 68 (Feb. 21)

Entering UCF's contest at Conference USA-leading UTEP, Donnie Jones knew that the Knights would need a total team effort to defeat a Miner squad that had won 15-straight games at the Don Haskins Center. Jones was correct as seven different Knights scored at least seven points as UCF recorded an impressive 74-67 victory over the Miners. Facing a team receiving votes in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, UCF led by as many as 19 points early in the second half and then held off a furious UTEP rally. Keith Clanton recorded a double-double in the win, finishing with 15 points and 13 rebounds. UCF outscored the Miners 39-25 in the opening half, when UTEP shot just 33.3 percent from the floor. The key for the Knights was a 23-8 run midway through the period. A pair of reserves -A.J. Rompza and Isaish Sykes - led the charge during the spurt. Rompza hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored eight points during the run, while Sykes recorded all seven of his points in the stretch. UCF shot 66.7 percent in the opening half, and made all six of its tries from 3-point range. The game against the Miners was originally slated to be played on Feb. 2, but was postponed due to a winter storm in El Paso.

1. Knights Make History with Win Over Gators
UCF 57, No. 16 Florida 54 (Dec. 1)

In what was undoubtedly the biggest win in program history, UCF played solid defense and scored when points were needed. The result was a thrilling 57-54 defeat of No. 16 Florida in the first collegiate game at the new Amway Center in downtown Orlando. The victory, UCF's first in 10 tries against the Gators, put the Knights on the national radar despite the fact that they were just six games into the Donnie Jones era. UCF won despite shooting just 26.7 percent in the second half and making just one of nine 3-pointers after intermission. The Knights allowed Florida to hit just two 3-pointers by continually running Florida's shooters off the line. UCF's resolve was severely tested midway through the second half when it missed 14 consecutive shots and didn't have a point for 7 minutes, 31 seconds. But Isaac Sosa, who had seven points, drilled a tough runner in traffic to snap the skid. From there, Marcus Jordan scored five points in a row for the Knights. He led the Knights with 18 points against Florida, a program where Jones spent 11 years as an assistant under Billy Donovan. After the win, much of the media attention focused on Jones defeating his mentor. But some of the attention also went toward what those inside the program already knew - big things were ahead for the Knights.