Knights to Make First NIT Appearance Wednesday at Drexel

March 13, 2012

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By Doug Richards

UCF at Drexel - NIT First Round
Date Wednesday, March 13
Time 7:15 p.m.
Location Philadelphia, Pa. | Daskalakis Athletic Center
Television ESPN3
Radio UCF IMG Sports Network - 740 AM
Internet Coverage ESPN3 Video |
Game Notes UCF Notes
Social Media @UCF_MBasketball | Facebook

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will make its first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament Wednesday when the Knights face host Drexel in Philadelphia. The NIT first-round contest at the Daskalakis Athletic Center will begin at 7:15 p.m. and will air online at ESPN3.

UCF (22-10) has earned its first berth in the NIT and is a No. 6 seed in the 32-team event. Third-seeded Drexel claimed the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title and is 27-6 this year. The Dragons are 13-0 at home and had a 19-game overall winning streak before falling to VCU in the CAA Championship final last week. Drexel just missed out on an NCAA Tournament bid.

The trip to the postseason is the latest first recorded by the Knights this season under second-year head coach Donnie Jones. During the regular season, UCF defeated a top-10 ranked team - No. 4 UConn - for the first time and recorded its first victories over Conference USA foes Memphis and UAB. Last week, the Knights made their inaugural appearance in the C-USA Championship semifinals.

Junior forward Keith Clanton enters the NIT averaging a team-high 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds. Last week, Clanton was selected to the All-C-USA First Team and also earned a spot on the C-USA All-Defensive Team. The NIT appearance allows UCF to extend the careers of seniors P.J. Gaynor and A.J. Rompza. Gaynor is fifth all-time at UCF with 120 games played, while Rompza ranks second in school history with 210 career steals and is third all-time with 483 assists.

Drexel went 16-2 in CAA play and are led by guard Frantz Massenat, who is averaging 13.6 points and 4.5 assists. The Dragons have won 16-consecutive games at home.

With a win at Drexel, UCF would face either No. 2 Saint Joseph's or No. 7 Northern Iowa in the second round. That game would be played between March 15 and 19. The first three rounds will be played at the campus site of the higher seeds. The semifinals and finals of the NIT will be played at Madison Square Garden in New York on March 27 and 29.

UCF-Drexel will air on the UCF IMG Sports Network and its flagship station, 740 The Game in Orlando. Marc Daniels will have the call from Philadelphia.

Mike Gleason will handle play-by-play on the ESPN3 broadcast and will be joined by former Wright State coach Paul Biancardi.

Series History
? Drexel has a 1-0 edge in the all-time series as the Dragons defeated the Knights, 83-72, on Dec. 22, 1989 in Orlando
? The game was played inside the Education Gym on the UCF campus
? UCF will be playing in Pennsylvania for the first time when it meets Drexel
? The Knights faced Colonial Athletic Association member Old Dominion earlier this year and registered a 61-53 victory over the Monarchs on Dec. 17 in Orlando
? Drexel defeated Old Dominion twice in 2011-12, once during the regular season and then in the CAA Championship semifinals

Making History
? UCF is making its first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament
? UCF has now received back-to-back at-large invitations to the postseason as the squad participated in the College Basketball Invitational last season
? The Knights went 2-1 in the CBI, advancing to the semifinals after defeating St. Bonaventure and Rhode Island at home
? The Knights have appeared in the NCAA Tournament on four occasions (1994, 1996, 2004, 2005) after earning the Atlantic Sun's automatic bid to the Big Dance
? UCF has never won an NCAA Tournament contest

Another First
? UCF's NIT selection is the latest of many firsts that the Knights have enjoyed this season:
- In November, UCF defeated a top-10 ranked squad - No. 4 UConn - for the first time
- In Conference USA play, UCF registered its first victories over Memphis (0-10 entering the year) and UAB (0-7)
- Last week, the Knights made their inaugural appearance in the C-USA Championship semifinals after joining the conference in 2005

22 is the Charm
? UCF's 22 victories are the fourth-most for the Knights since the program moved to the Division I level in 1984
? The Knights have already recorded their second-consecutive 20-victory campaign under Donnie Jones
? UCF went 21-12 a year ago and registered 19 of the victories during the regular season (two wins came during the postseason College Basketball Invitational)
? The current 20-win season is only the seventh for the program since the school moved to the Division I level in 1984

Updating the Résumé
? Here is a look at UCF's impressive résumé, which helped UCF earn an at-large invitation to the NIT:
- According to CBSSports.com, UCF's RPI is listed at No. 54
- UCF has three wins over top-50 RPI squads: Memphis (15), UConn (32) and Marshall (44)
- Seven of the team's 10 losses have come to top-50 RPI squads
- Six of UCF's 10 defeats have come against teams that were either ranked of receiving votes at the time

The Best is Yet to Come
? It is never too early to look ahead, and UCF should be even better in 2012-13, which will serve as Donnie Jones' third campaign in Orlando
? UCF will lose just two letterwinners, seniors P.J. Gaynor and A.J. Rompza, from this year's squad and will return 84 percent of its scoring
? Next year, the Knights' top-two players - Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan - will both be seniors, and third and fourth-leading scorers Isaiah Sykes and Tristan Spurlock will be juniors
? UCF will also have the services of a pair of talented guards, who are both sitting out this season due to NCAA transfer rules
? C.J. Reed, the 2010-11 MEAC Player of the Year after averaging 18.8 points at Bethune-Cookman, will play for the Knights as a senior and will see time at both point and shooting guard
? Calvin Newell, a shooting guard who averaged 13.0 points at Oklahoma in 2011-12, will be eligible in December as a junior

Close Calls
? UCF could have recorded a few more regular-season victories as four of its losses came by under five points
? Two of the defeats came on the road to top-50 RPI squads - Southern Miss (20) and Marshall (44) - and UCF victories probably would have moved the Knights into the NCAA Tournament field

Bouncing Back
? The Knights open the NIT following a loss to host Memphis at the Conference USA Championship, but should have plenty of confidence while opening the tournament
? UCF is 8-1 after a loss this season
? Last year, UCF began the campaign 14-0, but then suffered an eight-game losing streak

Hometown Hero
? Keith Clanton, a native of Orlando, has had another consistent year for the Knights
? An All-Conference USA First Team and C-USA All-Defensive Team selection, Clanton is averaging 14.6 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game
? The junior has scored in double figures 27 times this year and has led the team in scoring on 16 occasions and on the glass 19 times
? In January at UAB, Clanton became UCF's all-time leader in blocked shots and now has 164 career swats

Getting to the Glass
? Despite standing 6-foot-5, Isaiah Sykes knows how to get to the glass
? The Detroit native is second on the squad in rebounds per game at 6.6, good for 10th in Conference USA
? He averaged 3.2 offensive rebounds in C-USA contests and on the season, 44.2 percent of his boards have come on the offensive end

Showing Balance
? Balance has been the key for the Knights offensively this year as three players - Keith Clanton (14.6), Marcus Jordan (13.9) and Isaiah Sykes (12.5) - are averaging double-digits in scoring
? The last time that three players averaged double figures for the Knights was 2007-08: Jermaine Taylor (20.8), Dave Noel (13.3) and Mike O'Donnell (11.9)
? This year, five Knights are averaging at least 7.0 points per game
? In 2010-11, only three UCF players averaged over 6.5 points

Handle with Care
? A.J. Rompza paced Conference USA with a 3.1 assist-turnover ratio in league play
? The senior recorded 69 assists in conference contests with only 22 turnovers
? The Chicago native is third all-time at UCF with 483 career assists

Man of Steal
? A.J. Rompza averaged 2.5 steals in Conference USA games to lead the league
? Rompza ranks second in UCF history with 210 career steals and is seventh in C-USA history in the category
? Last year, Rompza totaled 34 steals in 31 games
? In 2011-12, the Chicago native has 49 steals in only 20 contests

Major Minutes
? Marcus Jordan is second in Conference USA in minutes per game at 36.0
? The junior logged at least 37 minutes in 11 of UCF's 16 league contests
? Last year, Jordan averaged 31.5 minutes as a sophomore

Making Strides
? UCF's top reserve this season has been Tristan Spurlock, who is in his first year competing for the Knights after transferring from Virginia
? Spurlock is averaging 7.2 points and 4.3 boards in 23.6 minutes per game as a sophomore
? As a freshman at Virginia in 2009-10, the small forward appeared in only 13 contests and averaged 2.4 points in 4.6 minutes an outing