GAMES NOTES: In the title game of the UCF Holiday Tournament, the host UCF Knights will face off with the Belmont Bruins at UCF Arena Saturday night.
In its first game of the two-day tournament the Bruins topped off Boston University, 64-48. The win was the fourth in the last five games for Belmont which has earned a solid 9-3 record overall through the first 12 games. The win was also the second in three neutral site contests for the Bruins who took part in the Great Alaska Shootout earlier this year. Belmont begins Ohio Valley Conference play next against Jacksonville State.
UCF also had an easy time with its first opponent in the event as the Knights routed Howard 62-45 on Friday night. The Knights have now won consecutive games and five of their last six. UCF is also sporting a solid record (8-3) and has been tough to beat at home where the Knights have six wins in eight tries. The Knights have a pair of instate matchups against South Florida and Florida A&M before opening league play.
In nine previous meetings, UCF has earned six victories against Belmont.
The Bruins really tightened up on the defensive end of the floor against Boston University. Belmont held the Terriers to just 34.6 percent shooting in the game including a 4-of-20 effort from beyond the arc. The 48 points allowed was the fewest of the season by Belmont. Four players scored in double figures led by Ian Clark (15 points).
Limiting opponents offensive efforts has been a real strength for Belmont this year. The Bruins have held a foe to less than 50 points four times and are currently ranked 28th in the nation in opponents' field-goal percentage (.378). On the other end the Bruins are a well oiled machine shooting an OVC- leading 47.2 percent from the floor while assisting on 15.1 field goals per game. The Bruins use those efforts to score a healthy 74.3 points per game. Clark (17.1 ppg) has excelled as a scorer out of the backcourt shooting at a 54.3 percent clip. Kerron Johnson (13.5 ppg, 4.9 apg) can score and distribute and Trevor Noack (12.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Blake Jenkins (10.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg) anchor the frontcourt.
The Knights also enjoyed a strong defensive showing on Friday night against Howard. UCF limited the Bison to just 38.3 percent shooting including a 4 of-14 effort from beyond the arc. The Knights also outscored the Bison 32-18 on points in the paint. Tristan Spurlock was the lead scorer in the game with 15 points.
Efficiency has keyed the Knights' offensive efforts this season. The Knights are the 10th best shooting team in the country, hitting on an impressive 50.1 percent of their shots from the field. On the defensive end the Knights let up 63.1 points per game and limit opponents to nearly nine percentage points less shooting than themselves (.416 FG percentage). Keith Clanton (16.2 pg, 9.5 rpg) is one of just a few players in the country that a double-double can almost be expected from on a nightly basis. Isaiah Sykes (14.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 5.1 apg) is a versatile guard that can contribute in just about every area. Kasey Wilson (11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Spurlock (10.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg) can also score and rebound well.
The Bruins will need their very best defensive effort to slow down the hot shooting Knights. That will be easier said than done as UCF's pool of talent will likely be able to outlast Belmont.