Memphis, TN (SportsNetwork.com) - A pair of teams trending in opposite direction meet for an American Athletic Conference clash at FedExForum tonight, as the UCF Knights challenge the 20th-ranked Memphis Tigers.
UCF is hoping to put the brakes on an eight-game slide, the team last claiming a victory at home against Temple on Jan. 4. The Knights, who are 9-12 overall and just 1-9 in conference, are fresh off a 75-55 home loss to UConn, and they are going to try to end their misery by doing something they haven't done much of this year -- win on the road (1-6). Additionally, they have yet to beat a ranked opponent.
Memphis comes in sporting an 18-5 overall record, which includes a 7-3 league ledger. The Tigers have won two straight and seven of their last eight games, the most recent of which being a 60-54 non-conference triumph over visiting Gonzaga this past Saturday. It was the third win over a ranked opponent this season for coach Josh Pastner's club, which will try to improve to 12-2 at home with a win tonight.
Memphis has dominated the series with UCF, winning 15 of the previous 16 meetings. The teams met in Orlando on Jan. 29, with the Tigers prevailing in a 69-59 final. It was the fifth straight win for Memphis since the Knights notched their one and only win in the series, a 68-67 decision at home on Jan. 18, 2012.
Isaiah Sykes hit for 17 points and dished out five assists, but that effort went to waste as the UCF Knights dropped a 20-point decision to visiting UConn last Sunday. The home team shot just 39.2 percent from the field, while committing 18 turnovers. The Knights had a tough time on the interior, as they were beaten on the boards (42-31), as well as outscored significantly in the paint (48-26).
Sykes (15.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 3.6 apg, .478 FG percentage) continues to pace the Knights in scoring, rebounds, assists. He is however, a terrible free-throw shooter (65-of-127, .512), the team as a whole converting a dismal 59.7 percent of its foul shots on the season. Calvin Newell (11.0 ppg, 3.1 apg) and Tristan Spurlock (10.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) round out the double-digit scorers for a squad that is putting up 72.3 ppg, but giving up 72.0 ppg. Kasey Wilson is close to joining the double-digit scorers club, as he nets 9.9 ppg to go with 5.9 rpg.
Memphis had a rough shooting game against Gonzaga, hitting a mere 34.5 percent of its field goal attempts, but an 18-6 edge in points from the foul line proved to be the deciding factor in what wound up as a narrow win for the home team. The Tigers had four players reach double figures, with Chris Crawford and Michael Dixon, Jr, netting 11 points apiece. While they outscored the Tigers in the paint (38-28), the Bulldogs were held to just 2-of-16 success from beyond the arc.
The Tigers are a solid offensive team, generating just shy of 80 ppg (79.8), doing so behind a typical shooting effort of 48 percent from the field. Defensively, the club is yielding 69.1 ppg, with foes struggling from 3-point range in particular (.298). Memphis forces 16 turnovers per outing. Joe Jackson (14.4 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.0 spg) leads the way in scoring, assists and steals, while help comes from Goodwin (12.4 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 39 blocks) and Dixon, Jr. (11.5 ppg).