UCF (3-1) at (7) Florida (4-0)
Friday, November 23, 4 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Frank Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stephen C. O'Connell Center (11,548) -- Gainesville, Florida. Television: Sun Sports, FSN-FL. Home Record: UCF 2-1, UF 3-0. Away Record: UCF 1-0, UF 0-0. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, UF 1-0. Conference Record: UCF 0-0, UF 0-0. Series Record: Florida leads, 9-1.
GAME NOTES: Sunshine State rivals square off on Friday afternoon, as the UCF Knights come calling on the seventh-ranked Florida Gators.
UCF opened the 2012-13 season with three straight wins over South Florida (74-56), Alabama State (85-56) and Savannah State (53-50). Feeling pretty good about themselves, the Knights recently entertained Middle Tennessee on Tuesday, and the Blue Raiders were up to the task as they prevailed in a 75-61 final. Still, at 3-1, UCF is confident it can make some serious noise in Conference USA, and the Knights will play their first league game of the season at home against UAB on Jan. 9, 2013.
Florida has won all four of its games to this point in the campaign, with the biggest being a 74-56 rout of No. 22 Wisconsin at home on Nov. 14. The team's other victories have come against the likes of Alabama State (84-35), Middle Tennessee (66-45) and Savannah State (58-40). Billy Donovan has once again assembled a team of talented players, who are looking forward to taking on all comers, including those in the SEC who plan to challenge them for the league title this season. Florida will take on non-conference foes Marquette, Florida State, Arizona and Kansas State before opening its league ledger at home against Georgia on Jan. 9, 2013.
Florida has won nine of the previous 10 meetings in the series with UCF, with the Knights' lone victory coming in the most recent encounter, 57-54, on Dec. 1, 2010 in Orlando.
UCF allowed an average of 54 ppg in its first three outings, all wins, but surrendered 75 points in the recent loss to Middle Tennessee. The Knights shot 43.5 percent from the floor in that contest, but watched as the Blue Raiders dropped 50.0 percent of their total shots, including 9-of-17 from three-point range. The game was only as close as it was because MT went a dismal 10-of-22 from the free throw line. Tristan Spurlock led UCF with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Keith Clanton added 15 points, the same number of boards and he handed out half of the team's 14 assists. Through four games, Isaiah Sykes (17.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 5.0 apg) heads the Knights' scoring list, and Clanton (17.0 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 3.3 apg, 2.8 bpg) and Spurlock (13.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg) join him to form a productive trio. The team as a whole is hitting 48.7 percent of its field goal attempts in averaging 68.2 ppg. Foes are shooting just 40.7 percent from the floor, and the Knights own a +6.8 rebounding margin, but are -2.5 in turnovers.
Florida's defensive effort thus far has been exceptional, as foes are netting just 44.0 ppg in connecting on only 30.8 percent of their field goal attempts, which includes a dismal 25.9 percent showing from three-point range. At the offensive end, the Gators are producing 70.5 ppg in draining 47.4 percent of their total shots, which includes a 38.0 percent effort from beyond the arc. They are +9.8 in rebounding margin, +2.3 in turnover, and there are four players averaging double figures in the scoring column, led by Kenny Boynton with his 14.3 ppg. Eric Murphy (13.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg), Mike Rosario (12.8 ppg, 3.0 apg) and Patic Young (10.5 ppg) round out the quartet, with Young and Will Yeguete heading the unit's effort on the glass with 8.0 and 8.5 rpg, respectively. UF struggled against Savannah State the last time out, in that the team shot just 35.4 percent from the field, although its 42.9 percent showing from downtown was certainly respectable. Fortunately, the Gators were on top of their game once again at the defensive end, forcing 20 turnover and holding their overmatched opponent to 34.8 percent field goal efficiency.
With Clanton on the court, UCF has a chance most nights. That said, the Gators are the more balanced team and should be able to clamp down on defense once again, while putting their best foot forward at the other end in earning a hard-fought home victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 70, UCF 63
11/23 10:52:41 ET