UCF (2-1) at Miami-Florida (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, November 21, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: BankUnited Center (7,972) -- Coral Gables, Florida. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: UCF 2-1, Miami 2-1. Away Record: UCF 0-0, Miami 0-1. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, Miami 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 0-0, Miami 0-0. Series Record: Miami-Florida leads, 7-1.
GAME NOTES: Sunshine State foes square off at the BankUnited Center on Thursday night, as the Mimai-Florida Hurricanes play host to the UCF Knights.
UCF opened its season with a three-game homestand and came away with a 2-1 record, defeating Tampa (97-72) and Bethune-Cookman (82-63), with a loss against Florida State (80-68) sandwiched in between. The Knights, who have pieced together three straight 20-win seasons under head coach Donnie Jones, will endure a season-long, three-game road trip over the next few weeks.
Miami had one of the best teams in the nation a season ago, but with the new campaign came plenty of intrigue for Jim Larranaga's squad, as it experienced nearly 100 percent turnover in the offseason. The Hurricanes opened their schedule with a disappointing 66-62 overtime loss to St. Francis Brooklyn, but they have since reeled off three straight wins, most recently beating the College of Charleston on the road this past Monday, 70-54.
The Hurricanes have beaten UCF in seven of the previous eight meetings, including a 72-50 triumph in Orlando last season.
The Knights faced an early six-point deficit in their latest game against Bethune-Cookman, but they promptly took control by ripping off a 19-2 run and they never looked back en route to a 20-point victory. They shot 43.9 percent from the field in the victory, but the biggest story came on the glass where they outrebounded their opponent by an astounding 55-24 margin. Isaiah Sykes flirted with a triple-double off the bench by posting 22 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, while Tristan Spurlock was also rock solid with 16 points and nine boards.
UCF has experienced stellar scoring success through three games, as it nets 82.7 points per game on greater than 45 percent shooting from the field. Calvin Newell and Sykes share the team lead with 18.7 points per game each, while Sykes brings 7.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per contest as well. Spurlock (13.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Kasey Wilson (9.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are also integral cogs for a team that outrebounds its opponents by more than 12 boards per tilt.
The Hurricanes opened up a 15-point advantage at the half against Charleston earlier in the week and put it in cruise control from their, finishing the game with strong percentages from the field (.510), 3-point range (.636) and the foul line (.917). Pacing the effort was James Kelly, who netted 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the floor (including 3-of-3 from beyond the arc). Rion Brown and Manu Lecomte chipped in 15 and 14 points, respectively, while Donnavan Kirk nearly logged a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
It hasn't been a smooth start for Miami shooting the ball, making good on less than 43 percent of its field goal attempts, but it still manages to score 74.2 points per game, seven points more than it allows to opponents. The balanced squad, which has five players averaging in double figures, is led by Kirk's 14.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Brown (13.5 ppg) runs the point and has nearly three times as many assists (15) as turnovers (six). Lecomte, Kelly and Garrius Adams all score between 10.3 and 11.8 points per game.
Although the Hurricanes are off to a solid start, they haven't played a very difficult schedule, and their young squad will have a tough time out-muscling the veteran Knights who have beat up on teams in the paint in the early going.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 75, Miami-Florida 71
11/21 10:35:25 ET