UCF (9-5) at Rutgers (7-9)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, January 15, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: The RAC (8,000) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPNews. Home Record: UCF 8-2, Rutgers 7-6. Away Record: UCF 1-3, Rutgers 0-3. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 1-2, Rutgers 1-2. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: In their first-ever meeting, the UCF Knights and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will square off in American Athletic Conference action at the RAC.
UCF has not gotten off to the starts to its new conference schedule it had hoped for, as the team is just 1-2 against AAC competition, with a win over Temple sandwiched between losses to Louisville and Connecticut. In terms of overall success, the Knights are currently 9-5, although they have just one win in four road tests. They will return home to take on SMU next.
Rutgers has begun to slide backward following a three-game win streak, as it has dropped its last two decisions. The first loss came against Louisville (83-76), while the second was a more dismal, 71-51, rout at Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights are 7-9 overall, despite playing 13 of their first 16 games at home. A two-game road trip is next on the docket beginning against Houston.
A miserable night from the floor sank UCF against UConn. The Knights only connected on 31.3 percent of their shots from the floor, while also being on the short end of a 50-34 difference on the boards. Isaiah Sykes netted a game- high 17 points as one of the few bright spots in the loss.
Sykes (15.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.6 apg) is without a doubt the most important player on the roster for UCF. The 6-foot-6 guard leads the team in scoring and is one of the top performers on the glass. His size creates a number of mismatches for opposing backcourts. Calvin Newell (13.1 ppg) may not be scoring as much as Sykes, but he is a solid contributor out on the perimeter, while tied for the league lead in steals with UConn's Shabazz Napier. Tristan Spurlock (12.3 ppg, 6.5 rpg) and Kasey Wilson (10.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are also averaging in double figures and cannot be ignored.
Rutgers fought hard in the first half, but eventually ran out of gas in the loss to Cincinnati. The Scarlet Knights shot 23.1 percent from the floor and had only six field goals over the final 20 minutes. Myles Mack scored a game- high 17 points, but knocked down just 1-of-6 tries from beyond the arc.
Mack (16.3 ppg, 4.2 apg) is the top scoring threat for the Scarlet Knights, and he is one of three players averaging in double figures. However, the 5- foot-9 guard is no longer just a scorer, as he is averaging 1.5 more assists per game than a year ago. In fact, he ranks fourth in the league in assists. Jerome Seagears (9.1 ppg, 4.2 apg) is right behind Mack in that category, but he is listed as questionable for this tilt with an ankle injury. Kadeem Jack (13.9 ppg, 7 rpg) and J.J. Moore (11.6 ppg) are also needed at the offensive end, while Wally Judge (8.4 ppg, 6.9 rpg) has been a solid performer when called upon.
The Scarlet Knights are not blessed with a ton of backcourt depth, which will be a problem if they hope to slow down Sykes. Without Seagears, they are even more vulnerable.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 72, Rutgers 67
01/15 10:35:38 ET