SUNRISE, Fla. (CBS4) — On the verge of cracking the Top 25 for the first time ever, Central Florida stumbled some Saturday.
First, the unbeaten Knights gave up 17 consecutive points in the first half. Then guard Marcus Jordan hurt his left ankle.
Even so, Central Florida won again. Keith Clanton led a rally that helped beat the Miami Hurricanes 84-78 in the one-day Orange Bowl Classic.
“We’re building every day,” guard A.J. Rompza said. “We don’t want to take any steps back.”
The Knights (10-0) are off to their best start since 1979 and might make the Top 25 next week, but they also might have to play awhile without Jordan. The son of Michael Jordan tweaked his right ankle in the first half, then hurt his left ankle more severely late in the game when he was fouled and fell at midcourt.
He grimaced and didn’t put any weight on his left leg as he was helped to the sideline, but he stood in front of the bench in the final seconds.
X-rays were planned, and Jordan said it would be a couple of days before the extent of the injury could be assessed.
“Any time you hurt your ankle, it hurts right away,” he said. “I was trying to get back in the game, but it was just killing me.”
The Knights trailed 43-31 late in the first half, their largest deficit this season. Clanton scored all but one of his 14 points after halftime, and Jordan scored 23.
Six of Central Florida’s victories have comes against in-state opponents, including the Florida Gators.
“Anybody that we play, we expect to win,” Jordan said. “That’s an attitude we have this season of expecting to win. I think it really makes a big difference.”
The Hurricanes (7-3) had won five games in a row. They lost to Central Florida for the first time in seven meetings.
“In the second half our defense was nonexistent,” coach Frank Haith said. “We didn’t play with any sense of urgency. We were so afraid of fouling, we lost our physicality.”
Fouls were an issue early for the Knights, which scrambled their lineup in the first half, when Miami made its big run.
“You always worry about momentum shifts, but it’s all mental,” coach Donnie Jones said. “I was proud of how we found a way in the second half.”
Clanton, the Knights’ leading scorer this season, went without a basket for the first 23 1/2 minutes but finished 6 for 8 and had seven rebounds.
“Coach wanted me to come out and be aggressive, so I took a couple more shots,” Clanton said.
Central Florida shot 15 for 20 (75 percent) in the second half and won despite missing 22 free throws.
Malcolm Grant scored 19 points for the Hurricanes, who led 47-45 when the game was delayed for 25 minutes in the second half because of a power outage in the area. The Knights were at their best thereafter, penetrating into the lane repeatedly down the stretch.
“We struggled after that,” Haith said. “It seemed like our guys lost a little zip.”
Isaiah Sykes hit a left hook to give Central Florida its first lead of the half, 59-58 with eight minutes left. The basket came during a stretch when the Knights scored on eight of nine possessions, and they stayed ahead the rest of the way.
Nursing a three-point lead, Central Florida missed four consecutive free throws in the final 34 seconds. But Sykes made an interception before Miami could attempt a tying shot, and Dave Diakite’s two free throws sealed the win.
“Our kids are trying to stay humble,” Jones said. “Our goal is to be ranked at the end of the year, not at the beginning.”
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)