ORLANDO, Fla. - Calvin Newell and Isaiah Sykes each scored 24 points to lead the UCF men’s basketball team to a 78-67 win over Rice Wednesday at the UCF Arena. The Knights improved to 13-5 overall and 3-1 in Conference USA play with the victory.
UCF made 27-of-35 (77.1 percent) of its free throws for the game and outscored the Owls (4-14, 0-4) 46-35 after the score was tied at 32 at intermission.
Newell’s 24 points were a career high. The junior transfer from Oklahoma made 5-of-8 3-pointers. Sykes, who shot 7-of-13 from the floor, did much of his damage at the line, where he went 9-of-10.
Tristan Spurlock added a double-double with 14 points and a career-best 12 boards for the Knights. Facing constant double teams, Keith Clanton did not connect on a field goal (0-for-3) and finished with three points, but contributed to the victory with 10 boards and a team-best five assists.
“Our team found a way to win tonight,” UCF head coach Donnie Jones said. “[Opponents] are focused so much on Keith. Other guys have to produce. That’s what I like so much about our team. We have a good team with a lot of guys who can produce on any given night.”
After the hosts led by 12 earlier in the second half, the Owls got within three points with 6:11 to play when Austin Ramljak nailed a triple. After a defensive stop by the Owls, Sykes sparked a 6-0 run that allowed the Knights to pull away with an impressive block on a Keith Washington dunk attempt.
Newell hit four free throws during the spurt and Sykes made a pair before Newell put the game out of reach for good with a 3-pointer with 2:32 to play that gave UCF a 71-60 advantage.
UCF was playing its first home game since Jan. 9 when it opened league play with a 64-48 win over UAB. The Knights finished with a 38-21 edge on the glass against Rice.
Rice shot 51.1 percent for the game and made 10-of-23 (43.5 percent) of its attempts from deep. Tamir Jackson led the Owls with 15 points.
The Knights host SMU Saturday. Tipoff at the UCF Arena is 4 p.m.