"I feel like we're a better team than we showed," Clanton said of the blowout loss to Memphis. "We all need to play harder and more aggressive."
No. 6 seed UCF (22-10) gets its shot at redemption and the national spotlight when the Knights play at No. 3 seed Drexel (27-6) Wednesday night in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. Tipoff is set for 7:15 p.m. and the game will broadcast on ESPN3.com.
The Dragons are coming off a 59-56 loss to Virginia Commonwealth in the Colonial Athletic Association championship game. Drexel won a school record 19 consecutive games before losing to VCU in the title game. The Dragons, who posted a 13-0 record at home, were favored to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"Everyone says they were the biggest team to get snubbed and should have gone to the NCAA Tournament," senior point guard A.J. Rompza said. "We know they're a great team that has played really well at home. They have like four players who average double figures. We're going to have to stick together and play our game to win."
While both the Dragons and Knights were disappointed not to make the NCAA Tournament field, UCF coach Donnie Jones said it was an honor to receive the first NIT invitation in school history.
"It's a great tournament and opportunity for our team to keep improving," he said.
Drexel was viewed by national analysts as the stronger NCAA Tournament candidate, but UCF earned a higher ranking in the final NCAA Ratings Percentage Index standings. The Knights were ranked No. 54, while the Dragons were ranked No. 66.
Six of UCF's 10 losses this year were teams in the NCAA Tournament field. The Knights own three wins over teams ranked in the Top 50 of the RPI rankings, defeating No. 16 Memphis, No. 21 Southern Miss and No. 32 Connecticut.
Drexel owns one win over an opponent ranked in the Top 50 of the RPI standings, defeating No. 38. VCU.
Junior forward Keith Clanton, who earned first team All-Conference USA honors, leads the Knights with 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, while junior guard Marcus Jordan adds 13.9 points per contest.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Sykes has been the Knights' biggest playmaker in Conference USA play, chipping in 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds. He averaged 10.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in the C-USA tournament despite nursing a sprained left wrist and has been a strong defensive performer capable of shutting down opposing teams' top guards.
Sophomore guard Frantz Massenat, who earned first team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors, leads Drexel with 13.6 points and 4.6 assists per game.
Rompza said the keys to the Knights' success won't change against Drexel. UCF has thrived all season when the Knights play strong team defense, rebound aggressively and constantly move on offense to generate open shots.
"People tell us when we move the ball work together, we're a fun team to watch," Rompza said. "That's what we need to do. Work hard together on defense and share the basketball on offense."
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