UAB (8-7) at UCF (10-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 9, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UCF Arena (10,000) -- Orlando, Florida. Television:. Home Record: UAB 7-0, UCF 8-3. Away Record: UAB 1-5, UCF 2-1. Neutral Record: UAB 0-2, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: UAB 0-0, UCF 0-0. Series Record:UAB leads, 7-3.
GAME NOTES: The UCF Knights are set for their final Conference USA opener as they host the UAB Blazers at UCF Arena.
UCF, which will join the Big East next season, is coming off a 30-point rout of Florida A&M which improved it to 10-4 on the season. Three of the four losses came to opponents from power conferences as Middle Tennessee was the only mid-major to down the Knights. Donnie Jones's squad is netting 70.9 points per game on 49.7 percent shooting from the field, which is the 13th highest accuracy rating in the nation. UCF is also decent on the defensive end of the floor where it allows just 63.6 ppg.
While the Knights exit the league, first-year head coach Jerod Haase makes his debut after guiding UAB to an 8-7 mark in non-conference play. The Blazers had their three-game winning streak snapped on Saturday by a 78-71 setback to the Flyers in Dayton. After battling it out in defensive minded, slow paced battles last season, the Blazers have established a new run and gun identity under Haase. They are third in the league in scoring at 76.7 points per game, but last in scoring defense (73.3 ppg).
This will be just the 11th meeting between these conference foes. UAB holds a 7-3 all-time series lead, but the Knights won their third in a row in the rivalry by downing the Blazers by 10 points in the 2012 C-USA Tournament.
UAB connected on 51.7 percent of its shots in the first half versus Dayton, but still went into the intermission trailing, 44-35. It was unable to overcome the deficit as it cooled off to hit only 30.6 percent from the floor in the final 20 minutes. Rod Rucker had a 20-point, 15-rebound double-double for UAB, which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Terence Jones added 17 points, Jordan Swing contributed 12, and Fahro Alihodzic chipped in 10. Swing is tops on the Blazers with 14.7 ppg and Rucker's rough inside play has yielded 14 points and 7.9 boards per contest.
The Knights ability to display pinpoint accuracy from the floor was on display on Saturday as they drained 72.4 percent of the field goals in the opening half to build a 27-point lead at the intermission. UCF hit 14-of-28 from 3- point range in the contest as Isaiah Sykes poured in a game-high 25 points. Tristan Spurlock and Keith Clanton chipped in 15 points apiece. Clanton, who was the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year, has collected seven double-doubles on his way to 16.9 points and 9.6 rebounds per game averages. Sykes has made a huge impact this season by tallying 15.4 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per outing. The junior guard has already dealt out 68 assists after finishing last season with 65.
UAB has a solid frontcourt with Rucker and Alihodzic, but neither are capable of containing Clanton. The Knights should be able to dominate the interior aspect of the game, which will put a lot of pressure on Swing and Williams to produce. UCF should be able to defend its home court as long Sykes continues to stuff the stat sheet.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 74, UAB 69
01/09 10:36:25 ET