ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - In his final game at the UCF Arena, Keith Clanton scored 29 points, but it was not enough Saturday as the UCF men's basketball team came up short against No. 17 Memphis, 76-67. The Knights (19-10, 8-6 Conference USA) led for much of the first half, but could not hand Memphis (25-4, 14-0) its first league loss of the season.
After the Tigers led by nine points early in the second half, Clanton scored UCF's next nine points, including a huge dunk off a feed from Calvin Newell, to tie the contest at 38 with 15:48 to play. Memphis responded with a jumper from Chris Crawford (19 points) and eventually built its edge to 13 points. The Knights got within six points, 68-62, when Newell drained a triple with 3:36 on the lock, but were unable to get any closer the rest of the way.
"I am disappointed that we lost, but I am very proud of these guys," UCF head coach Donnie Jones said of the Knights. "What a way for (Keith) to end here in this building, other than with a victory. It was great to see him play the way that we know he can play. Give Memphis credit, that is a good basketball team. Chris Crawford was the difference coming off the bench."
UCF was hosting a nationally ranked team for the first time since the UCF Arena opened in 2007.
Clanton, UCF's all-time leader in rebounds, blocks and games played, made 10-of-15 shots from the floor and 3-of-4 from deep and added six rebounds and two blocks in 39 minutes. The senior from Orlando gave UCF a huge spark in the opening stanza when he scored 13 points. Prior to the contest, Clanton and fellow seniors Bobby Horodyski and Robert King III were honored.
"Once it got going, I felt like I forgot about it," Clanton said of the emotions surrounding his final home game. "Coach told me to stay aggressive. Memphis is a team that plays man-to-man, so I felt like I would have the opportunity to score."
UCF raced out to a 14-4 lead to start the contest and went up 21-17 with 6:29 to play after a Clanton slam. The Tigers took advantage of 10 UCF first-half turnovers and behind some late 3-pointers from Crawford, took a 34-29 into the break.
The Knights were playing without starter Tristan Spurlock, who missed the game due to an injury. Clanton was one of four Knights to finish with double-digits in scoring, joining Newell (13 points), Kasey Wilson (11 points) and Isaiah Sykes (10 points).
Memphis shot 48.3 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from deep. Joe Jackson totaled 19 points and seven assists in the win.
The Knights will conclude the campaign with a pair of road games next week, starting with a contest Wednesday at UAB.