John Denton's Knights Insider: UCF Happy to Be Home

Jan. 27, 2012

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - One by one, 16-straight opponents have come into UCF Arena late last season and all throughout this year and have been overwhelmed by the UCF squad on the floor and the raucous noise in the air.

Together, they have made for quite a combination for a UCF men's basketball team that is riding an air of invincibility when it comes to playing at home. UCF's 16-game home winning streak ranks as the 10th longest such active streak in the nation.

``The whole atmosphere of being back in `The Dungeon' is why we're so good there. There's nothing like playing in front of the home crowd and getting that extra boost from the Knightmare fans,'' said UCF junior center Josh Crittle, one of the team's most excitable players who often does his best to pump up the home crowd. ``On the road it can be difficult because it's just us and we go in as the underdogs. But at home as soon as we run out our crowd lifts us up and we're ready to play.''

UCF (15-5 overall and 5-2 in Conference USA play) is hoping to use its homecourt advantage on Saturday night to get a key conference victory against Southern Miss (18-3 and 5-1). The Knights trail the Eagles for the lead in conference play by a game after losing 66-61 at Tulsa on Wednesday night.

When UCF was last on its home court, fans stormed the floor and UCF celebrated one of its biggest victories in school history. Junior forward Keith Clanton converted a layup and a free throw with four seconds to play to secure UCF's thrilling 68-67 defeat of Memphis, a first in school history. UCF junior guard Marcus Jordan, UCF's leading scorer at 15.6 points a game, said he was so happy that UCF was able to notch arguably its biggest win at home so that the team could celebrate with the fanbase.

``It was real cool getting to enjoy it with our fans,'' said Jordan, whose scoring average is just slightly ahead of Clanton's 15.4 points a game. ``It was just so cool to see everybody excited and supporting our team.''

UCF last lost at home on Feb. 9, 2011 when Memphis' Antonio Barton drilled a last-second 3-pointer. But that moment seemed to spark something inside the Knights. They beat Tulsa and then took down C-USA Southern Miss in late February last year on a stunning 23-foot 3-pointer by guard A.J. Rompza in the final seconds.

Two more home wins in the College Basketball Invitational and a perfect 11-0 mark at home this season and the Knights feel like they can accomplish anything at home in front of their fans. UCF has some work to do to catch Kentucky, which has the nation's longest active home winning streak at 47 games, but all that matters to them now is pushing their home streak to 17 games with a defeat of Southern Miss.

``We're just more comfortable at home and we feed off our fans and their noise,'' said sophomore forward Isaiah Sykes, who earlier this season earned MVP honors of the UCF Holiday Classic played at the UCF Arena. ``On the road we try to make our own energy, but at home the fans help us so much. We thrive off the noise and just play better at home.''

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