U-C-F (20-8) at Memphis (21-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday February 28th, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: FedExForum (18,400) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: CSS. Home Record: UCF 20-8, Memphis 14-2. Away Record: UCF 3-6, Memphis 6-4. Neutral Record: UCF 2-1, Memphis 1-2. Conference Record: UCF 9-5, Memphis 11-3. Series Record: Memphis leads, 10-1.
GAME NOTES: The UCF Knights will try to quiet the roaring Memphis Tigers tonight as the two square off in a critical Conference USA matchup at the FedExForum.
Coming into 2011-2012, Memphis held a 10-0 series lead over UCF. That changed on Jan. 18th as the Knights edged the Tigers, 68-67, in Orlando. Keith Clanton and Will Barton battled in the paint in the first contest, and both will look to have superb performances in this one as the C-USA Tournament seedings are at stake.
UCF has not lost all hope for an NCAA Tournament bid, but it will need all the help it can get. A win over Memphis tonight would certainly help the Knights' resume. Coach Donnie Jones led the team to a needed 63-45 victory on Saturday which improved its record to 20-8 overall and 9-5 in league action. A win tonight would clinch the fourth and final first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament. The Knights have outscored their opponents by an average of 4.9 ppg this season. UCF has a very good perimeter defense, as opponents are connecting on a league-low 30.4 percent from beyond the arc against it.
The Knights are led by Clanton, who averages team highs of 15.0 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. The junior forward has been consistent as of late, as he has scored in double-figures in three-straight games. Clanton's inside action is paired with Marcus Jordan's stellar guard play. The son of the Hall of Famer Michael Jordan, is netting 14.5 ppg on 37.7 percent shooting. Jordan has scored 20 or points five times this season, the most recent of which however was against Memphis on Jan. 18th. Isaiah Sykes is adding 12.5 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest while A.J. Rompza leads the team with 4.1 assists and 2.6 steals per outing.
Josh Pastner has guided Memphis to a 21-8 overall record and sole possession of first-place in the C-USA standings with a 11-3 mark in league play. The Tigers won their second game in a row on Saturday as they topped the Marshall Thundering Herd, 87-67, to stay ahead of Southern Miss and Tulsa in the race for first. Memphis is just one win away from at least a share of its seventh- consecutive C-USA regular season crown. The Tiger are one of three teams in the nation to be in the top-20 in both field goal percentage (6th) and field goal percentage defense (15th). The balanced effort has given Memphis a 10.2 ppg average margin of victory, which is the best in the league.
Will Barton is the front-runner to win the Conference USA Player of the Year award at the season's end, as he is leading the league in scoring (18.3 ppg) and ranks seventh in rebounding (8.0 rpg). Barton displayed his talents on Wednesday versus Marshall as he scored 24 points, grabbed six boards, and handed out four assists. Joe Jackson, Tarik Black, and Chris Crawford all play vital roles for Memphis as well. Antonio Barton provides a three-point threat for the Tigers as he has drained 41.8 percent from beyond the arc this season.
The timing of the recent league makeovers is unfortunate as the Conference USA has become much deeper than in the past few years. While the C-USA is set to lose a few programs and merge with the Mountain West, it will see a few deserving teams be rejected by the NCAA Selection Committee this season. UCF is one team that is hanging onto its hopes by a thread. Tonight is do or die for the Knights as they challenge Memphis, which seems to have a cemented spot in the Big Dance. Although Clanton and Jordan led the Knights to victory in the first bout, the Tigers are going to be aggressive predators as they seek revenge in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 75, UCF 66
02/28 10:49:00 ET