South Florida (8-3) at UCF (9-3) (ET)
GAME NOTES: The South Florida Bulls and UCF Knights will meet for the second time this season when they square off at UCF Arena in a non-conference tilt.
The Knights began their 2012-13 season with a 74-56 victory over the Bulls, who enter Wednesday owning a 19-7 all-time series lead versus UCF. However, the Knights have won the past three encounters.
South Florida has played much better since faltering in the opener. It improved to 8-3 and extended its winning streak to three by downing George Mason, 61-57, on Saturday. The Bulls' other two losses came to Western Michigan and Oklahoma State. Just like the team from a season ago that went to the NCAA Tournament, Stan Heath's squad is one of the toughest on the defensive end of the floor in the nation with an allowed average of just 60.6 points per game on 38.6 percent field goal shooting. They are scoring 66.6 ppg, which is just over seven more points than last season.
Donnie Jones's Knights are red-hot with six victories in their last seven outings, including a 66-63 win over Belmont in the UCF Holiday Tournament championship game on Saturday. UCF is now 9-3 overall with a 7-2 mark in its own arena. The Knights are playing spirited basketball this season which has led to a scoring offense of 69.8 ppg with 49.5 percent shooting from the field including a 40 percent clip from beyond the arc. Defensively, they are allowing only 63.1 ppg on 41.2 percent shooting.
The Bulls will be shorthanded for this one as Shaun Noriega, JaVontae Hawkins, and starting point guard Anthony Collins, who averages 9.6 points and 7.6 assists per game, are all unavailable due to injury. Forward Kore White is also questionable. USF will still have its top three scorers and rebounders, Toarlyn Fitzpatrick (11.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg), Victor Rudd (11.1 ppg, 7.5 rpg), and Jawanza Poland (10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg) in uniform. Their production will need to go up, but more points will be hard to find without Collins drawing defenders and distributing.
Senior forward Keith Clanton could have transferred to any program in the country after the NCAA ruled UCF ineligible for postseason play over the summer, but he decided to stick around and finish his career in Orlando. The Knights have thrived behind his leadership as he is carrying team-high averages of 17 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks per outing. Clanton registered a double-double of 26 points and 10 rebounds to lift the team over Belmont. Isaiah Sykes is second on the team in both scoring (14.8) and rebounding (6.3). Kasey Wilson (11.2 ppg) and Tristan Spurlock (9.6 ppg) have both started all 12 games, but Jones has yet to identify a consistent fifth starter.
The Knights are exceeding expectations this season as they are playing for pride over everything else. South Florida could avenge its season-opening loss to UCF, but it will need someone else to emerge as a playmaker to replace the production of its fallen floor general.
GAME NOTES: The South Florida Bulls and UCF Knights will meet for the second
time this season when they square off at UCF Arena in a non-conference tilt.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: UCF Arena (10,000) -- Orlando, Florida. Television: CBS
Sports Network. Home Record: USF 7-2, UCF 7-2. Away Record: USF 1-1, UCF 2-1.
Neutral Record: USF 0-0, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: USF 0-0, UCF 0-0. Series
Record: South Florida leads, 19-7.Game Date and Time
Wednesday, January 2, 8 p.m. (et)Predicted Outcome
UCF 68, South Florida 62