Howard (3-10) at UCF (7-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, December 28, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UCF Arena (9,465) -- Orlando, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: Howard 1-3, UCF 5-2. Away Record: Howard 0-9, UCF 2-1. Neutral Record: Howard 0-0, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: Howard 0-1, UCF 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAMES NOTES: The UCF Holiday Classic begins on Friday when the host UCF Knights square off with the Howard Bison at UCF Arena.
It has been a hard start to the season for Howard which comes into this matchup with just a 3-10 mark overall. The Bison lost to Rutgers 79-55 last Friday for their second straight loss. That defeat also came on the road where the Bison are a miserable 0-9 this year.
Things have gone much better for UCF entering this weekend with the Knights currently 7-3 overall. UCF is coming off an 83-66 victory over Atlantic Sun foe Stetson which was the fourth win in the last five games for the Knights. UCF has benefited from a non-conference schedule that has featured a number of home games with the Knights 5-2 at UCF Arena this season.
The winner of this game will take on the victor of the second matchup between Belmont and Boston University, while the loser of each will also match up.
The all-time series between these two programs is tied at two wins a piece. UCF took home the last decision with a 68-59 victory during the 2009-10 season.
Howard just couldn't slow Rutgers down in its loss last Friday. The Bison managed to connect on a respectable 45.7 percent of their field goal attempts but allowed the Scarlet Knights to hit a blistering 60.0 percent of their own. Anton Dickerson came off the bench to score 16 points as one of just two players in double figures for Howard.
The Bison have really struggled to find an identity on the offensive end of the floor. Howard is scoring just 54.8 points and assisting on 9.2 field goals per game this season, both of which are among the 10 worst marks in the country. The Bison have managed to limit opponents to 64.2 points per game on 43.2 percent. Howard is also one of the worst rebounding teams in the MEAC (32.2 rpg). Mike Phillips (13.3 ppg, 6.9 rpg) is the top scorer and rebounder, while Calvin Thompson (12.8 ppg) is the only other player scoring in double figures.
It was nearly the exact opposite for UCF last time out. The Knights nailed 56.9 percent of their shots from the field, including 10 3-pointers and limited Stetson to just 36.7 percent shooting. Isaiah Sykes was phenomenal in the win posting a triple-double of 16 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.
Efficiency is the key on offense for UCF which has shot at a 51.1 percent clip this season, the fifth best mark in the country. The Knights also assist on a large number of their field goals (15.1 pg) and have scored at a respectable 70.9 points per game rate. Keith Clanton (17.0 ppg, 9.4 rpg) is a threat to post a double-double each time he steps on the floor. Sykes (14.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 5.1 apg) has made it a habit of filling up the stat sheet, while Kasey Wilson (11.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and Tristan Spurlock (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg) add depth.
Howard's track record doesn't give much evidence to support a Bison upset, especially against a UCF team that has a number of scoring options.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 79, Howard 59
12/28 10:32:46 ET