ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF will open Conference USA play with some confidence. Playing in its final contest before opening its league schedule, UCF crushed Florida A&M, 99-69, Saturday at the UCF Arena.
The Knights, who improved to 10-4, never trailed and had four players finish with double-digits in scoring, led by Isaiah Sykes with 22 points.
UCF bounced back from a loss earlier in the week to rival USF in which open shots did not fall with one of its best offensive performances of the season. The Knights shot 57.6 percent overall and 50.0 percent from deep. The team's 14 3-pointers tied for fourth on the program single-game register as the hosts totaled a season-high 27 assists on 34 made field goals.
The Knights led 55-28 at the break after shooting 72.4 percent from the floor and 64.3 (9-of-14) from 3-point range in the first half. Sykes scored seven points early as UCF raced out to a 25-6 lead to start the contest. Florida A&M fell to 4-11 with the loss.
"I am really proud of this team," UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. "This is our last non-conference game before we start conference play. We had 27 assists. Florida A&M is a good team that competes and plays hard. They've played a tough schedule. I thought we shared (the ball). I thought we played hard defensively and set the tone early on."
Tristan Spurlock and Keith Clanton both scored 15 points in the win. Spurlock made 3-of-4 shots from deep. In addition to a game-high seven assists, Clanton also totaled six boards and passed Cincinnati's Kenyon Martin for ninth on the C-USA career rebounds list (872). Calvin Newell added 11 points for the Knights.
"It's all about how your team comes back from losses and victories," Jones said. "I was really proud of Keith Clanton. He had seven assists and zero turnovers. I know he can score and do a lot of other things, but that just shows the complete, well-rounded player that he is, and how he can impact your team."
Spurlock attributed the Knights' strong shooting performance to the squad's unselfishness.
"We shared the ball really well. It was really unselfish out there. Everybody was passing the ball and doing what they needed to do," he said.
UCF and the Rattlers were meeting for the first time since 2002. Reggie Lewis led Florida A&M with 13 points.
The Knights will now turn their attention to C-USA play. UCF will open its final campaign in the league on Wednesday with a 7 p.m. game against UAB at the UCF Arena.