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December 17, 2012In-state bragging rights are on the line when Miami visits UCF on Tuesday night. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. in a game that will be nationally televised by CBS Sports Network.
This will be the first meeting between the two schools since UCF's victory in the Orange Bowl Classic in December 2010. That 84-78 win two years ago improved the Knights' record to 10-0 and resulted in the program's first ever top 25 ranking.
UCF senior Keith Clanton says every game is important, but admits they take on a little more meaning when you're playing another team in Florida.
"I think the in-state rival (games) make you more ready to play," Clanton said. "We know we're playing for Orlando and they're playing for Miami. We're going to come out hard and aggressive."
Both the Knights (6-2) and Hurricanes (6-1) are off to impressive starts. The Knights have won three in a row and are coming off a 75-71 win at Old Dominion. Miami downed previously-undefeated Charlotte, 77-46, and also defeated top 20 Michigan State earlier this season.
"Miami is without question one of the best teams we'll play next to Florida and South Florida," UCF coach Donnie Jones said. They're coming in with four fifth-year seniors starting. They have great experience. Now Shane Larkin, who is from here in Orlando, is doing a very good job at the point for them. They have very good chemistry. They're not playing a lot of guys. Playing mostly with that lineup. They're really clicking with a win over Michigan State and that's given them great confidence."
A former four-star prospect out of Dr. Phillips High School, Larkin was heavily recruited by UCF but he opted to sign with DePaul. He spent the summer at the Chicago school before transferring to Miami prior to the 2011-12 season.
Now a sophomore, Larkin leads the Hurricanes with 15.3 points per game. He's also knocking down more than 50 percent of his three-point shots (14-of-27).
Attendance figures are typically lighter during the winter break, but Jones is hoping fans still fill up the building for what will be the first ACC team to visit the new UCF Arena since its opening in 2007.
"I think it's a great opportunity for us," Jones said. "I know our students are gone, but hopefully we can get some of them to come back and help fill this building up along with our fans here locally. It's a great opportunity to have an ACC team in here and obviously play an in-state team like Miami. It's going to be great for our seniors to play this game here and for all of our guys. We'll be playing (teams like this) every night next year (in the Big East)."