ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF entered Friday's opening round game of the UCF Holiday Tournament against Howard as one of the top shooting teams in the country. The Knights, who saw star forward Keith Clanton face double and triple teams all evening, did not have a great evening offensively but proved that it can win with its defense in a 62-45 victory.
The Knights (8-3), who were led by Tristan Spurlock's game-high 15 points, will face Belmont in the tournament title game Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
UCF never trailed against the Bison (3-11) and limited Howard to only 33.3 percent shooting after intermission. The Knights led 28-20 at the half. UCF forced 16 Howard turnovers for the game.
Spurlock was one of three Knights to finish with double digits in scoring, joining Isaiah Sykes (12 points) and Matt Williams (11 points). Keith Clanton did not tally at least 10 points for the first time this season, but had a complete game with eight points, a game-high 11 boards, five assists, two blocks and two steals.
"Tonight, defense won us the game. There are going to be nights offensively like this for Keith Clanton," UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. "They were doubling him and playing zone trying to contain him. For the most part, we pressed for the majority of the game, which allowed us to control the tempo."
UCF was playing for the first time since Dec. 20 when it recorded an 83-66 victory over visiting
Clanton entered the game averaging 17.0 points. He faced countless defenders Friday, but did not force bad shots. He made 4-of-9 attempts from the floor.
"I was proud of Keith," Jones said. "He helped open it up for Tristan. He gave some great passes for good shots and dunks. That tells you what senior leadership is about for Keith Clanton. It wasn't about his points, but it was about our team winning."
The Knights shot 41.4 percent overall and finished with a 37-30 edge on the glass. Howard made 38.3 percent of its field-goal attempts.