ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF didn't play its best game of the young season, but made some key free throws at the end to post a 53-50 victory over a pesky Savannah State squad Sunday at the UCF Arena. The Knights, were led by Keith Clanton, who posted his third-straight double-double with 17 points and 12 boards, and improved to 3-0 on the year.
After leading by as many as 18 points early in the second half, the Knights found themselves trailing 50-49 with 43 seconds left after Rashad Hassan scored inside for the Tigers (3-2). On the ensuing possession, Kasey Wilson made one of the most important plays of the day for the hosts when he chased down a loose ball with 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock and passed to an open Tristan Spurlock, who was fouled.
The junior calmly knocked down both free throws and then joined Clanton to force Hassan to miss a contested jumper on the other end. Wilson grabbed the defensive rebound and knocked down both free throws before Savannah State's Preston Blackman missed a 3-pointer from halfcourt as time expired.
UCF, which entered the contest shooting 57.9 percent through two games this year, shot just 32.6 percent overall and missed all seven of its attempts from 3-point range, but still managed to record the win.
"It wasn't a pretty game. You can't play pretty all the time," UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. "It is still a process for our team. I knew that it was going to be a grind-out game."
UCF led 31-18 at the break after forcing 11 Tiger turnovers.
Spurlock finished with 13 points and six rebounds in 38 minutes. Isaiah Sykes added 14 points in the win.
Hassan led the Tigers with 17 points.
UCF was playing the first of three challenging games this week. A year ago, Savannah State won 21 games, claimed the MEAC regular-season title and participated in the postseason NIT.
"We knew that Savannah State was going to be a scrappy team," Spurlock said. "They went to the postseason last year. We knew that it was going to be a 40-minute game. We knew it was going to be a fight. They definitely came out really scrappy."
On Tuesday, the Knights will host 2012 NIT participant Middle Tennessee State. The Blue Raiders won 27 games a season ago, including triumphs over UCLA, Ole Miss and Tennessee. UCF will conclude the week Friday in Gainesville against No. 10 Florida.