UCF (10-14) at Houston (12-14)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, February 22, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Hofheinz Pavilion (8,479) -- Houston, Texas. Television: ESPNW. Home Record: UCF 8-7, Houston 9-4. Away Record: UCF 2-7, Houston 2-8. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, Houston 1-2. Conference Record: UCF 2-11, Houston 4-9. Series Record: Houston leads, 8-6.
GAME NOTES: One week after picking up their inaugural American Athletic Conference road win, the UCF Knights will look to collect another as they square off with the Houston Cougars at Hofheinz Pavilion.
UCF snapped a nine-game losing streak as Isaiah Sykes sank a runner in the closing seconds to lift the team to a 75-74 win over South Florida last Saturday. Coach Donnie Jones's team has just two wins in nine true road games so far this season. The Knights returned home to suffer a 77-49 setback to Cincinnati on Wednesday, falling to a 2-11 AAC record. Despite the loss, they outrebounded the Bearcats, 40-37. UCF is the top rebounding unit in the AAC with 38.5 rpg.
The Cougars tumbled to their second consecutive loss on Wednesday, falling 68-64 to Larry Brown's SMU Mustangs in Dallas. Houston has lost seven of its last eight games and nine of its last 11 to arrive at a 12-14 overall record. Coach James Dickey's squad is in sixth place in the AAC race despite its 4-9 league ledger. On the season, Houston has outshot its opponents from the field, 44.6 percent to 43.8 percent, but it still owns a -1.9 scoring margin due to its negative margins in terms of its rebounding (-1.7) and turnovers (-1.1).
This will be the 15th meeting in history between UCF and Houston, who were both members of the Conference USA in 2012-13. The Knights edged the Cougars, 79-75, in overtime last season at Hofheinz Pavilion.
In their lopsided loss to Cincinnati, the Knights started 0-for-12 from the arc but made 7-of-15 the rest of the way. UCF made only 4-of-23 field goal attempts in the first half and finished 29.6 percent from the floor. Isaiah Sykes recorded a double-double in the sluggish offensive showing with 13 points and 10 rebounds, but also committed seven of the Knights' 16 turnovers. The 6- foot-6 senior guard is leading the team with 16 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 3.6 apg, while Tristan Spurlock is second on the squad with 10.8 ppg and 5.6 rpg. UCF is netting only 71.4 ppg on 43.6 percent efficiency from the field.
Jherrod Stiggers provided Houston with a spark off the bench versus the Mustangs, sinking 6-of-13 shots from the floor for a team-high 16 points. TaShawn Thomas and Danuel House added 15 points apiece, with the former also accounting for a team-best eight boards. Thomas is the only player in the AAC ranked among the league's top six players in scoring (15.9 ppg) and rebounding (8.6 rpg) and needs just six points and nine boards versus UCF to become the seventh player in school history with 1,300 points and 800 rebounds in a career. House is the Cougars' second option on the offensive end with 12.9 ppg, while Stiggers is chipping in 10.1 ppg as Dickey's key reserve.
UCF will need to rely on its 6-10, 310-pound rookie center Justin McBride against the Cougars, who revolve around Thomas' low post offense. The Knights' freshman center has received increased playing time and has recorded a pair of 13-point games in his last four appearances. His impact as a defensive anchor may be enough to lift UCF to the triumph.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 74, Houston 70
02/22 10:51:47 ET