Orlando, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Facing the second of three straight ranked opponents, the UCF Knights welcome No. 22 Memphis to CFE Arena on Wednesday night for an American Athletic Conference clash.
Memphis has certainly had a solid campaign thus far, logging a 15-4 overall record, which includes a 5-2 showing against its AAC brethren. The Tigers have won their last three games, the most recent of which being an 80-58 rout of USF on Sunday, which put the wraps on a four-game homestand for the club. Memphis has won its last three road tilts, including an upset of defending national champion Louisville on Jan. 9.
UCF is a game over .500 on the season (9-8), but the start of conference play has really done a number on the team's sense of worth as it has lost four straight and five of its six total games against AAC competition. The Knights have struggled to put points on the scoreboard recently, netting 46 and 51 in losses to SMU and Louisville in the last week and a half. UCF does have an 8-3 record at home, although it has dropped two of its last three in Orlando.
Memphis has dominated the series with UCF over the years, winning 14 of the previous 15 matchups. The lone triumph for the Knights came at home on Jan. 18, 2012 in a 68-67 final.
The teams will meet again in Memphis on Feb. 12 to conclude the regular-season series.
The Tigers performed well at both ends of the court in their recent win over USF, shooting 49 percent from the field, which included a 10-of-22 showing from 3-point range, while at the same time allowing the Bulls just 33.9 percent efficiency, as they converted only 3-of-10 long-range tries. Chris Crawford nailed five treys to tally 15 points, while Joe Jackson added 14 points and seven assists, Shaq Goodwin tallied 13 points and 10 rebounds, and Nick King came off the bench to chip in 10 points for the Tigers. Geron Johnson also dished out seven helpers, giving the team assists on all but two of its 25 field goals.
Jackson (14.1 ppg, 4.2 apg), Goodwin (13.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Crawford (11.3 ppg, 2.5 apg) are all averaging double digits in the scoring column for coach Josh Pastner's club, which is putting up a robust 80.7 ppg while permitting just 69.5 ppg. Additional support comes from five others who net between 5.5 and 8.9 ppg, and the team as a whole is shooting a solid 48.3 percent from the field, while goading the opposition into more than 16 turnovers per outing.
UCF has shot under 40 percent from the floor in each of its last four games, all losses, and the most recent against Cincinnati saw the team connect on only 38.5 percent of its total shots, which included a 5-of-18 showing from beyond the arc. Calvin Newell came off the bench to lead the Knights with 12 points, while Staphon Blair was the only starter to reach double figures, netting 11 points before fouling out after only 18 minutes of action. The Bearcats didn't exactly light the world on fire themselves (.472 FG percentage, .316 3-point FG percentage, .650 free-throw percentage, 13 turnovers), but they really didn't need to as UCF failed to pose much of a threat.
For the season, the Knights are averaging 73.9 ppg in hitting 44.1 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes 34.6 percent from 3-point land, while permitting 70.6 ppg behind typical shooting efforts of .442 overall and .321 from downtown. Isaiah Sykes has been the team's top all-around performer, as he posts averages of 15.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists per outing. Assistance comes in the form of three other double-digit scorers (Newell, Tristan Spurlock, Kasey Wilson), and while the Knights are +4.8 in rebounding margin, they are -1.1 in turnover differential.