UCF beats Rhode Island 65-54 for tournament title
ORLANDO, Fla.—Isaiah Sykes scored 14 points as Central Florida held off Rhode Island for a 65-54 victory on Friday night, in the return of A.J Rompza to UCF's starting line-up.
Rhode Island closed to within six, 40-34, with 14:42 remaining, but the Knights regained momentum by scoring the next seven points.
Marcus Jordan made a layup, and then Rompza nailed a 3-pointer and grabbed a steal for a fast-break lay-up for a 47-34 lead.
Rompza, who was serving a 12-game suspension for violation of NCAA rules, had seven points, six assists and three steals in 30 minutes as UCF won its Holiday Classic tournament. He accepted the championship trophy on behalf of the team.
"He did a great job," UCF coach Donnie Jones said of Rompza. "A.J. was excited. I was worried that A.J. would be too hyped up, but he did a great job. We're excited to have him back."
The visiting Rams (2-12) later closed to 57-51 on a Billy Baron 3-pointer with 4:01 remaining, but couldn't capitalize on three opportunities to make it a one-possession game.
Keith Clanton (13 points) drained a 3-pointer and Sykes scored five straight points to help the Knights (10-3) pull away.
Jordan added 12 points for UCF, which won its 19th straight non-league home game.
UCF pulled away from a 20-all tie in the first half for a 29-22 lead on Josh Crittle's layup with 1:10 remaining. The Knights led 31-25 at halftime behind nine points from Tristan Sperlock and five each from Clanton and Sykes.
Mike Powell had 21 points for Rhode Island.
Rhode Island never got closer than nine points after that. The Rams entered the tournament giving up 79 points a game, but held both its opponents under 65.
"We're a better team than when we first got here," said Rhode Island coach Jim Baron. "Now it's a matter of carrying it over to the rest of the season."