Posted on: November 25, 2011 7:45 pm
Edited on: November 25, 2011 11:12 pm
By Jeff Goodman
“Whoever you bring, I like sexy names. So what names? Central Florida would be kind of good but it’s not a sexy name right now." - Jim Calhoun
That was a quote from UConn's head coach a few months back -- when Central Florida was mentioned as a possibility to land in the Big East.
Well, the Knights, who could still be headed to the Big East in the future, looked far sexier on Friday afternoon after storming back from a 17-point second half deficit to pull off arguably the upset of the young season, a 68-63 victory over No. 4 UConn.
Donnie Jones' game plan worked to perfection down the stretch, mixing between man-to-man defense after misses and zone defense following made baskets. He said that key to the game was trying to slow down UConn point guard Shabazz Napier - and that's exactly what he did after the first few minutes of the contest.
"He makes them go," Jones said of Napier. "He's the head of the team and we had to control him. He makes everyone else go."
Central Florida got out of the gates quickly a year ago before struggling in league play, but Jones said that this team is different.
"We've got experience," Jones said. "Our two best players (Keith Clanton and Marcus Jordan) are juniors and our guys now the system now. Last year they were still getting used to it."
Without starting point guard A.J. Rompza, who is serving a suspension as the school is in the midst of an NCAA investigation, Marcus Jordan was forced to play point guard for much of the time. However, he spent most of the stretch off the ball - and was clutch in the final minutes of the game.
Both Jordan and Clanton finished with 20 points in the upset.
"The bigger the stage, the harder he plays," Jones said of Jordan. "He's so competitive."
The win puts UCF at 4-1 with a matchup against Harvard Saturday in the Battle 4 Atlantis title game. It was also just the third time that the program has knocked off a ranked opponent. A year ago, Central Florida beat Florida. The Knights also beat College of Charleston in 2002.
Jones' team came back from a late seven-point deficit the day before in a victory over College of Charleston.
"I love the fact that we didn't live in the last victory against Charleston," Jones said. "And that we came back again."
They delivered UConn its first loss since the start of the Big East tournament last March and in the process, may have changed Calhoun's perception of the basketball program a bit.
Photo: UCF athletics
Posted on: January 4, 2011 9:27 am
Edited on: January 4, 2011 9:45 am
Posted by Matt Norlander
If you can't give respect to a team that makes it to the new year without a loss, then perhaps it's time you stop yelling at those kids on your lawn and start paying attention to college basketball.
The particular attention I'm alluding to is for Central Florida, which is 13-0 and ranked No. 19 in the country.
Some surprises this year, no doubt, but nobody had this one. Not a one. Nobody had this team with only one or two losses, either.
Depending on two outcomes tomorrow night — UCF's game against Marshall and Memphis' game against Tennessee — we could have a definitive best team in Conference USA.
And it won't be the Tigers who, with a loss, will drop to a plenty-respectable 11-3.
What a nice thing for Conference USA this can be. You may recall last season, when UTEP only had one loss in conference and finally gave C-USA a different look after the Tigers had demanded everyone else's rent since five teams jettisoned for the Big East in 2005.
Now it's Central Florida that's upstaging Memphis, which is in Year No. 2 of the post-John Calipari era. Why have the Knights been so good so far? It's more than a weak schedule; credit UCF for beating then-ranked Florida, Miami and UMass away from home, even if the rest of the slate is cupcake-sweet. The primary reason UCF hasn't lost yet is because it's done something you can't fake — halt teams' shooting ability from all over the floor. No team is better at effective field goal percentage defense than the Knights, which allow opponents to make just 39.1 percent of their shots.
Barring a barrage of turnovers and miserable shooting on your end, you're beating everyone lined up before you if you prevent them from eclipsing 40 percent in effective field goal percentage.
Other reasons, ones you may know, like Marcus Jordan, the one who has legitimate talent and gotten a lot of the attention, has been helped tremendously by Keith Clanton, who is giving opposing teams more headaches than Baby Jordan. This young team also stays fresh by having one of the deeper benches in basketball.
Conference USA isn't that deep (again), but it could have three Tournament-worthy teams in UCF, Memphis and Southern Miss. So far, no one's looked as fluid or tough as the Knights, who seem to still have a tough opponent to overcome in the next few weeks: the doubters.