U-C-F (22-9) vs. Memphis (24-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 9, 6:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedEx Forum (18,119) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: CBSSN. Home Record: UCF 16-1, Memphis 16-2. Away Record: UCF 3-7, Memphis 7-4. Neutral Record: UCF 3-1, Memphis 1-2. Conference Record: UCF 10-6, Memphis 13-3. Series Record: Memphis leads 11-1.
GAMES NOTES: The second semifinal of the Conference USA Tournament followed the traditional route, as the fourth-seeded UCF Knights face off with the top- seed and tournament host Memphis Tigers at FedEx Forum on Friday.
UCF collected its first win ever against Memphis this season when the Knights edged out the Tigers 68-67 on their home floor. The second meeting was not so pleasant for the Knights, as Memphis rolled to an 84-55 rout on its home floor. Overall Memphis has won 11 of the 12 total meetings between the squads.
The winner of this game will take on either Marshall or Southern Miss for the tournament title.
In Thursday's quarterfinal round, UCF took down the fifth-seeded UAB Blazers 64-54 to earn the spot in the semifinals, after having a bye for the first round of the tournament. The Knights were inconsistent to end the year going 3-3 down the stretch, but will hope the tournament can kick them into a winning streak after a season in which they finished 21-9 overall.
Memphis began the year nationally ranked but had some issues as they played a devastatingly tough non-conference schedule. The Tigers lost games to No. 10 Michigan, No. 11 Murray State, No. 13 Georgetown and Louisville, who also spent time in the national rankings, in the first two months of the season but still ended up 23-8 including a 13-3 tally in conference games.
UCF played well enough, connecting on 50.0 percent of its shots from the floor but really showed up on defense by holding UAB to 29.3 percent shooting in the quarterfinals.
Offense has not been a strength for UCF this season, as the Knights are only scoring 66.5 points per game. However, defense has keyed their success with the team slowing just 62.6 points per game. Part of the Knights' strong play comes from their work on the glass, where they rank second in the conference in rebounding (36.9 rpg). Keith Clanton (15.0 ppg, 8.4) has been the primary force in that regard, as he finished the season fifth in the conference in the category. Clanton was just off his season averages in the quarterfinals, scoring 14 points to go with seven rebounds while blocking three shots. Marcus Jordan (14.6 ppg) might never be able to overcome his last name but still had a strong season for the Knights this season and along with Isaiah Sykes (12.6 pg, 6.6 rpg) provides added scoring depth behind Clanton.
Memphis had no problem against UTEP in its quarterfinal game. The Tigers rolled to a 65-47 win by dominating on defense holding the Miners to just 34.0 percent shooting while forcing 21 turnovers and blocking seven shots. The conference's leading scorer, Will Barton, had an off-game, scoring only seven points after averaging 18,7 per game. Without Barton, the Tigers still have a ton of talent specially in sophomores Tarik Black (10.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Joe Jackson (10.9 ppg, 3.7 apg), who both came through in the tournament win. Jackson put in a game-high 17 points and Black finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Chris Crawford (9.3 ppg, 3.9 apg) also had a good game, scoring 11 points and handing out seven assists. Memphis rose to the top of the conference offensively yet again this season, leading C-USA in scoring (74.8 pg), assists (14.6 pg) and field goal percentage (.493), while also playing stout defense (63.7 ppg).
UCF already made a breakthrough against Memphis this season but don't expect another one in this matchup. Memphis is clearly the better squad and even without Barton playing at his best, proved that it can handle other teams in C-USA. Expect the Tigers to roll into the championship game with a big win over the Knights.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 82, UCF 67
03/09 10:32:33 ET