A Look Back at UCF's Top C-USA Moments

GO KNIGHTS Keith Clanton helped the Knights to a huge win over visiting Memphis in 2012.
Keith Clanton helped the Knights to a huge win over visiting Memphis in 2012.

July 23, 2013

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By Doug Richards

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - UCF's eight-year tenure in Conference USA came to an end in June. Despite the move to the American Athletic Conference, it is not too late to reminisce on the Knights' time in C-USA.

Below is a look back at UCF's top league moments from the C-USA era:

vs. UTEP - Feb. 20, 2008
Behind a school-record tying 70.2 percent shooting performance from the field, UCF crushed UTEP, 109-80, at the UCF Arena. The 109 points were the most for the Knights since 2003-04 and tied for fourth in Conference USA history. Jermaine Taylor paced the Knights with 24 points, including 17 in the second half. He was one of a five Knights to score in double digits.

UCF shot 40-of-57 from the floor and made 11-of-17 (64.7 percent) of its 3-point attempts. The hosts connected on 21 field goals in the first half, compared to just 11 for the Miners, who trailed 56-31 at the break.

"Defensively, we were very good in the first half. That set the tone for the entire game," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. "It was a fun game for our guys and a fun game for the fans."

vs. Southern Miss - Feb. 6, 2013
UCF made some big defensive stops when it mattered to knock off visiting Southern Miss, 60-58, and snap the Golden Eagles' 10-game winning streak. The Knights held Southern Miss to just one field goal in the final 10 minutes of the contest.

After Isaiah Sykes made a pair of free throws with 14.6 seconds left to give the Knights a 2-point edge, the hosts made two stops to preserve the win.

With four seconds remaining, Keith Clanton raced across the court to swat a Jerrold Brooks' 3-point attempt into the stands and after a timeout, UCF clamped down again to force a missed three by Neil Watson as time expired.

"I am really proud of our kids. They bounced back after a tough loss at Marshall," UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. "Our kids have done this all year long. I knew it was going to be a grind-out game. What a great effort by our guys against a terrific Southern Miss squad."

at UTEP - Jan. 27, 2007
A 3-pointer from Mike O'Donnell with 2:19 to play was the difference as the Knights recorded a 67-64 victory over host UTEP. The loss was the first Conference USA home defeat for the Miners since joining the league in 2005.

UTEP had a chance to send the game into overtime, but Kevin Henderson's 3-point attempt rimmed out with four seconds on the clock and Dave Noel grabbed the rebound. Jermaine Taylor led UCF with 15 points and O'Donnell and Josh Peppers finished with 13 points each.

"For our guys to compete the way they competed was huge. We gave a great effort and getting a conference win like this on the road is huge," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said.

vs. East Carolina - March 7, 2009
Playing in his final game at the UCF Arena, Jermaine Taylor scored 27 of his 36 points after intermission to help UCF overcome a 17-point deficit and post a 74-71 win over East Carolina.

With the Pirates leading by two points, Taylor completed a traditional 3-point play to put UCF up 72-71 with 29 seconds remaining. On East Carolina's next possession, Sam Hinnant drove to the basket, but was whistled for an offensive foul when senior center Kenrick Zondervan stepped in to take the charge.

East Carolina led by 17 points with 18:17 to play in the second half. Taylor connected on four 3-pointers after intermission as UCF outscored the Pirates 51-34 after the break.

"It was a tough, hard-fought game. There were a lot of things not going our way," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. "Somehow we dug deep, reached down and scrapped and clawed our way in the second half. We had some individuals step up and make some plays and make some things (happen) defensively. I am very proud of our effort in the second half. I am very proud of our seniors... they willed it. They didn't want to lose."

at Houston - Jan. 14, 2006
Anthony Williams scored 25 points to help UCF win its first Conference USA game, topping host Houston, 66-56. UCF limited the Cougars to just 31 percent shooting from the floor. Houston entered the game averaging 77.5 points per contest, but was held to a season-low 56 points.

Justin Rose recorded his third double-double of the season, totaling a career-high 14 rebounds to go with 11 points in the winning effort. Williams shot 10-of-14 from the floor and grabbed nine boards. Mike O'Donnell helped the Knights handle Houston's pressure. He played all 40 minutes and posted seven points, seven assists and only two turnovers. UCF shot 50 percent overall and 47.4 percent from the three-point range for the contest as it never trailed during the game.

"I am very proud of our guys and the effort that they gave for 40 minutes," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. "This is probably as significant of a win that our program has ever had. This is just a tremendous win coming on the road and playing an outstanding Houston team."

vs. Tulsa - Feb. 14, 2009
A.J. Rompza hit a runner in the lane with less than a second remaining to give host UCF a 74-72 comeback victory over Tulsa. The Knights trailed by 17 points with just over 10 minutes remaining, but rallied as Jermaine Taylor scored 22 of his 35 points after intermission.

After Rompza made one of two free throws to give UCF a 72-69 edge, Tulsa's Glenn Andrews nailed a triple to tie the game with 13 seconds left. After UCF head coach Kirk Speraw called a timeout, Rompza received the ball at midcourt and drove into the lane where he hit the game-winning shot.

"We went through a stretch in the second half where we turned the ball over. We dug ourselves a huge hole," Speraw said. "We showed a lot of heart; a lot of character. I am very proud of our effort and determination coming down the stretch. It was a very good basketball game. It was a good win for our team."

vs. Tulsa - Jan. 12, 2008
Playing the first Conference USA game inside the new UCF Arena, UCF held on for a thrilling 97-91 triple-overtime win over Tulsa. Jermaine Taylor totaled seven of his 28 points in the final extra session, including a pair of 3-pointers, to lift the Knights to the win.

The contest was played in front of a then UCF-record 7,097 fans. Chip Cartwright's two free throws early in the final overtime put the Knights ahead for good. Cartwright had a career-high 15 points and five assists and Stanley Billings set career highs with 17 points and eight boards. Mike O'Donnell contributed 18 points and his two foul shots with seven seconds left in the second overtime enabled UCF to stretch the game into a third extra session.

"That is what college basketball is all about. It was a special game... a special atmosphere," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. "I am proud of our guys and the effort and composure we had tonight. I am proud of our fans that were into it and lively."

vs. Southern Miss - Feb. 26, 2011
A.J. Rompza buried a 23-foot 3-pointer in the final seconds to lift the Knights to a 65-64 win over visiting Southern Miss. Trailing 64-62 with 11 seconds to play, Marcus Jordan rebounded a missed Southern Miss free throw and pushed the ball in transition. He made an attempt to drive for the tie, but when he was cut off he found Rompza, who drained the go-ahead shot with 3.8 seconds remaining and sent the 7,402 fans at the UCF Arena, and Rompza's teammates, into a frenzy.

``I kept telling myself if I got the ball that I was going to knock down the shot,'' Rompza said. ``I knew what I was going to do when I got it. Marcus made a great play. I kind of heard everyone screaming and I guessed it went in. When I was falling back I saw it go in. I remember (the shot) being deep and everybody rushing me.''

vs. Houston - Feb. 28, 2007
In only its second year in the league, UCF clinched second place in Conference USA with a 75-72 overtime victory over Houston at the old UCF Arena. After a free throw from Chip Cartwright gave the hosts a three-point advantage with five seconds left in overtime, the Cougars' Robert McKiver had a chance to send the contest into a second extra session, but his off-balance 3-point attempt did not fall.

Houston led by three points with two minutes to play in overtime, but UCF grabbed the lead, getting a basket from Dave Noel and a trey from Mike O'Donnell. O'Donnell's 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play gave the Knights a 72-70 advantage. Jermaine Taylor paced UCF with 20 points in 36 minutes off of the bench.

"I am proud of our guys' effort. They are a tremendous group of young men," UCF head coach Kirk Speraw said. "I am happy that they are able to accomplish this."

vs. Memphis - Jan. 18, 2012
Keith Clanton and the Knights gave a huge UCF Arena crowd a night to remember when UCF defeated Memphis, 68-67, in a thrilling contest to post the program's first win over the Tigers. Once up 13 points in the second half with 16 minutes to play, UCF found itself trailing by two with 42 seconds to play.

Then, following a UCF miss from the foul line, Clanton corralled an offensive rebound with four seconds to play and made a layup as he was fouled to tie the game. The Orlando native calmly sank the go-ahead free throw to provide the winning point for the Knights. The clutch play capped a 23-point, eight-rebound night for the junior.

After A.J. Rompza came up with a steal on the Tigers' final possession, many of the students in the crowd of 8,734 fans rushed the court to celebrate UCF's first win over Memphis in 10 tries.

``We do a lot of situations in practice where if you miss a free throw you have to run,'' Clanton said of his game-winning free throw. ``So I was trying to treat it like that and make the free throw. It was unreal and we were happy to see our fans get so excited over us winning the game. Everybody stormed the court and was having fun. It was such a good experience.''