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CENTRAL FLORIDA 81, EAST CAROLINA 63

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Inside Game Day
Saturday, January 7, 2012

By Al Myatt

Rompza: Smallest Knight has big night

By Al Myatt
©2012 Bonesville.net
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GREENVILLE — Isaiah Sykes scored the first basket of the game for Central Florida with 19:07 left in the first half and the Knights never trailed in an 81-63 win over East Carolina in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Saturday evening.

"There's no sugar coating it," said Pirates coach Jeff Lebo in his postgame remarks. "We weren't even in the area code here tonight. Give them credit. They're big. They're physical."

UCF (12-3, 2-0 Conference USA) was big enough to beat 2011 NCAA Tournament champion Connecticut 68-63 on Nov. 25 and the Knights outrebounded ECU, 46-29, but their smallest guy, 5-foot-9 point guard A.J. Rompza, was a difference maker against the Pirates.

Rompza was 6 for 8 from the floor, including 3 of 4 behind the arc. The little left-hander had 16 points, nine assists, five steals and seven rebounds.

"Rompza controlled the game," Lebo said. "He's terrific. He is terrific. He makes them a different team now that he's back."

The flashy playmaker missed UCF's first 12 games of the season because of an NCAA-mandated suspension.

"He controlled the game, I thought, for 40 minutes," Lebo said. 'He was, to me, the best player on the court. He was a leader, tough. He made shots tonight. Nine assists, one turnover."

Not a one-man show

The Knights were not a one-man gang by any means. Marcus Jordan, son of a player who often seemed to take over games in the NBA, Michael Jordan, was UCF's leading scorer coming into the game with a 17.6 average. He shot 4 for 11 from the floor, including 1 for 7 from three, and had 12 points.

"We did the job on Jordan," Lebo said. "I thought for most of the game that he didn't really kill us, which he's capable of. We kept him under his average but we didn't get anything to be able to stop the other positions."

Sykes, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound sophomore from Detroit, led the Knights with 20 points and 10 rebounds.

"We had matchup problems, obviously, tonight, rebounding issues," Lebo said. "We knew we would have those. That's been a concern all year. ... We've managed to hide them and win some games this year. We're light and small at the four position with (Maurice) Kemp and (Robert) Sampson. We had matchup issues tonight."

Keith Clanton, a 6-9, 245-pound junior, had 16 points and six rebounds. Dwight McCombs, who is 6-8 and 235 pounds, had six rebounds for UCF in 11 minutes.

"They shot it at a high rate (35 of 67 from the field, 52.2 percent) and when they missed, they got 16 offensive rebounds," Lebo said. "The only thing we did well of the three things I wrote up on the board defensively was not foul. They get to the foul line a bunch and we didn't do that. That was about it."

The officiating crew, which featured Ted Valentine, the referee for whom Bobby Knight was once fined for berating, called just 14 fouls on the Pirates.

Holland: No thanks on stats

ECU athletic director Terry Holland wasn't interested in a stat sheet in his stop by the press room after the game.

"Nobody wants to look at it after a night like tonight," said the former Virginia basketball coach. "You sit and stare at it and try to change the numbers."

Paul draws technical

ECU point guard Miguel Paul, a transfer from Missouri, had a game-high 21 points on 8 of 16 shooting from the floor. His pair of 3-pointers at the close of the first half trimmed a 38-25 UCF lead to 38-31 at the break.

The Pirates were in the midst of making a second half run, having reduced a 22-point Knights' lead to 11 points, at 59-48, with 9:31 to go when Paul was called for a technical foul.

Paul said the call came because of something he said to an opposing player during some verbal sparring.

"Basketball is a game of talking," Paul said. " ... We did a little talking. I guess the refs wanted to clean it up a little bit. When it gets heated like that, I guess the ref thought I was talking too much and he gave me one."

Lebo said officials sometimes catch the second participant in confrontations and that may have been what happened to Paul. He didn't excuse his point guard from putting himself in that situation.

"We had the bonehead play with the technical foul," said the Pirates coach. "That just crushed anything that we had going at that point. It was just disastrous. ... You've got to be disciplined as a basketball player to keep your mouth shut."

Finney goes to 2-0

UCF assistant coach Shawn Finney has directed wins over Tulane and ECU with Knights head coach Donnie Jones sitting out the first three Conference USA games due to the school's self-imposed penalty following an NCAA investigation.

Finney could sense the Minges magic starting to take effect when ECU went on a 13-2 run before Paul's technical.

"You've got to give us credit," said the interim coach. "East Carolina kept punching us. They kept trying to make those quick runs on us and our guys played with a lot of poise. They really stayed focused down the stretch. I thought East Carolina, when they got into their pressure, was really going to cause us some problems but our guys handled it and were able to finish the game. I thought that was a big key the way that went down."

Morrow looks ahead

Senior center Darrius Morrow, who had 11 points and six rebounds, said it just wasn't ECU's day. He said the Pirates' four-game winning streak against the Knights probably served as a motivating factor for the visitors.

"It was one of those ugly games," he said. "Next Saturday (1 p.m. at home vs. Tulsa) should be different. It will be different because we have ample time to prepare and just get better every day."

ECU (9-6, 0-2 C-USA) was coming off a 78-76 loss at Southern Mississippi on Wednesday night.

Paul said he was looking forward to practice.

"We're OK," he said. "We're going to come back and work next week. We've got a whole week of practice. I can't wait until Saturday."



BOX SCORE

CENTRAL FLORIDA 81, EAST CAROLINA 63

Date: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012
Place: Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum, Greenville, NC
Attendance: 6,095
Records: ECU 9-6 (0-2 Conference USA); UCF 12-3 (2-0)

SCORE BY PERIODS     1   2  FINAL
Central Florida     38  43  -  81
East Carolina       31  32  -  63

CENTRAL FLORIDA GOLDEN KNIGHTS
 # PLAYER                    FG   3PT    FT  R PTS MIN
.........................    ..   ...    ..  . ... ...
33 Clanton, Keith...... f  7-18   2-7   0-2  6  16  29
24 Crittle, Josh....... c   2-4   0-0   0-0  2   4  17
03 Rompza, A.J......... g   6-8   3-4   1-2  7  16  39
05 Jordan, Marcus...... g  4-11   1-7   3-4  4  12  34
32 Sykes, Isaiah....... g 10-15   0-0   0-0 10  20  35
00 Days, Rod.............   0-0   0-0   0-1  0   0   1
01 Spurlock, Tristan.....   3-5   0-0   0-0  2   6  16
02 Martin, Wayne.........   0-0   0-0   0-0  0   0   1
10 McCombs, Dwight.......   1-2   0-0   1-2  6   3  11
21 Gaynor, P.J...........   2-3   0-1   0-0  5   4  14
22 Wilson, Kasey.........   0-1   0-0   0-0  1   0   3
TEAM.....................                    3
TOTALS................... 35-67  6-19  5-11 46  81 200
PERCENT..................  52.2  31.6  45.5

EAST CAROLINA PIRATES
 # PLAYER                    FG   3PT    FT  R PTS MIN
.........................    ..   ...    ..  . ... ...
01 Morrow, Darrius..... f   5-9   0-0   1-1  6  11  32
02 Kemp, Maurice....... f  3-10   0-1   8-8  6  14  27
00 Paul, Miguel........ g  8-16   4-8   1-1  1  21  29
20 Bowden, Shamarr..... g  2-11   1-8   1-1  3   6  29
23 Straughn, Erin...... g   2-3   1-2   0-0  4   5  22
03 Torlak, Petar.........   0-1   0-1   0-0  1   0   3
11 Gaines, Corvonn.......   0-1   0-0   0-2  1   0  19
12 Sampson, Robert.......   0-4   0-0   1-2  1   1  11
22 CAMPBELL, Paris.......   1-4   1-3   0-0  0   3  18
25 Steed, Austin.........   0-0   0-0   0-0  2   0   7
35 Morales, Darius.......   1-1   0-0   0-0  0   2   3
TEAM.....................                    4
TOTALS................... 22-60  7-23 12-15 29  63 200
PERCENT..................  36.7  30.4  80.0

Fouled out: None
Technical Fouls: Miguel Paul
Officials: Ted Valentine, Winston Stith, Steve Pyatt

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01/08/2012 07:19:11 AM
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