Middle Tennessee (2-1) at UCF (3-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, November 20, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UCF Arena (10,000) -- Orlando, Florida. Television: None. Home Record: MT 1-0, UCF 2-0. Away Record: MT 1-0, UCF 1-0. Neutral Record: MT 0-1, UCF 0-0. Conference Record: MT 0-0, UCF 0-0. Series Record: UCF leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: The UCF Knights put their unblemished record on the line on Tuesday night, as they entertain the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in non- conference action.
Middle Tennessee is 2-1 on the young season, having taken care of Alabama State (97-53) and Savannah State (58-55) to kick things off, but then dropping a 66-45 decision versus No. 10 Florida on Sunday. The Blue Raiders are one of the favorites to challenge for the Sun Belt Conference crown this year, and they will play their first league bout at Louisiana on Nov. 29. The meat of their SBC slate begins with a Dec. 29 clash at home against FIU.
UCF has yet to taste defeat through three games, as the team has topped the likes of USF (74-56), Alabama State (85-56) and Savannah State (53-50). The Knights, who call Conference USA home for the final time (the school moves to the Big East Conference starting in 2013-14), are playing their third straight home game, and will take on the same Florida team that just beat Middle Tennessee this Friday in Gainesville. UCF, which has won 22 consecutive non- conference home games, opens C-USA play in Orlando against UAB on Jan. 9, 2013.
UCF has won the two previous meetings with Middle Tennessee, with both taking place in successive years (1999-2000).
Despite having 10 of its top 12 scorers from last season back for another go, the Blue Raiders are averaging just 66.7 ppg behind typical shooting percentages of .417 overall, .359 from three-point range and .675 from the free throw line. And that scoring average is skewed pretty heavily due to the 97 points Middle Tennessee put up against Alabama State in the opener. Defensively, the team has been as solid as they come, yielding a mere 58.0 ppg, with foes hitting their field goal attempts at a 40.9 percent clip, which includes a 29.4 percent showing from beyond the arc. The Blue Raiders goad the opposition into just shy of 18 turnovers per outing, while winning the battle on the boards by more than five caroms per contest. Marcos Knight is the team's only double-digit scorer at the moment, but his 12.3 ppg aren't about to intimidate even inferior opponents. Knight was on his average in the recent loss to Florida, and he was joined in double figures by Shawn Jones who tallied 10 points. Unfortunately, the team as a whole shot a dismal 32.0 percent from the floor, making only two of its 10 long-range attempts along the way.
UCF is getting it done at both ends of the court here in the early going, netting 70.7 ppg while allowing just 54.0 ppg. The Knights are shooting a healthy 50.0 percent from the field overall, but drain just 32.3 percent of their three-point tries and only 59.3 percent of their free throws. The enemy is only 37.6 percent accurate from the field, which includes a low 29.2 percent effort from downtown. UCF is also +9.7 in rebounding margin, and the team boasts three double-digit scorers, the best of the lot being Isaiah Sykes with his 21.0 ppg. A 63.2 percent shooter from the floor but just a 46.9 percent shooter from the charity stripe, Sykes adds 6.7 rebounds and a team- high 5.4 apg to his impressive stat line. Keith Clanton is averaging a monster double-double consisting of 17.7 points and 13.0 rebounds per game. UCF had all kinds of trouble finding the bottom of the net in the narrow win over Savannah State, shooting 32.6 percent from the field, and the team missed all seven of its three-point attempts. Clanton scored 17 points and grabbed a dozen boards, while Sykes finished with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists.
The Blue Raiders are sure to put up a fight, but they lack the overall talent and depth to challenge the Knights on their own floor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 71, Middle Tennessee 60
11/20 10:40:42 ET