UCF (11-4) at East Carolina (9-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum (8,000) -- Greenville, North Carolina. Television: WITN. Home Record: UCF 9-3, ECU 8-1. Away Record: UCF 2-1, ECU 1-4. Neutral Record: UCF 0-0, ECU 0-0. Conference Record: UCF 1-0, ECU 0-1. Series Record: UCF leads, 13-5.
GAME NOTES: The East Carolina Pirates are set for their Conference USA home opener, as they welcome the UCF Knights to Minges Coliseum on Saturday night.
UCF is playing on the road for the first time since Dec. 14, having just wrapped up a 5-2 homestand. The Knights were in action Wednesday night, posting a 64-48 win over UAB. They'll now play two straight on the road before returning to UCF Arena on Jan. 23.
Each of East Carolina's last five victories has been followed up by a loss the very next game. However, the Pirates have played very well in Greenville with wins in eight of nine games this season. They enter tonight's tilt looking to rebound from Wednesday's 67-54 loss at Memphis.
The Knights swept the season series in 2011-12, including an 18-point win over ECU in Minges Coliseum. UCF leads the all-time series, 13-5.
UCF's victory over UAB earlier this week came by virtue of a relentless defensive effort, and a bit of luck. UAB, which had made a 3-pointer in 538 straight games dating back to 1996, missed all 23 of its attempts from beyond the arc. UCF held the Blazers to 26-percent shooting from the floor to overcome 21 turnovers and win easily. Calvin Newell led the way with 14 points, while Keith Clanton dominated the paint with 12 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Tristan Spurlock rounded out the Knights in double figures with 12 points. Four players are averaging double figures on the season, led by Clanton with 16.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per tilt. Isaiah Sykes provides a solid complement in the low post, averaging 15.0 points and 6.3 rebounds. The Knights do a good job of using their size to get easy buckets, as they lead C- USA and rank 14th nationally in field-goal percentage (.492).
ECU boasts its own solid big man in Maurice Kemp, a 52.4-percent shooter from the floor who averages 17.6 ppg and 8.5 rpg -- both team-highs. Miguel Paul is next in line with 11.9 ppg, while Robert Sampson (9.9 ppg) and Akeem Richmond (9.0 ppg) are just under double figures. Richmond, a 43-percent shooter from beyond the arc, tops the conference with 2.5 threes per game. However, ECU was held under 60 points for the first time this season against Memphis. The Pirates fell behind early, as they trailed by 27 late in the first half before reeling off 21 straight points to cut the deficit to six. Unfortunately, they were unable to sustain that momentum, and the Tigers eventually staved off the threat. Kemp and Shamarr Bowden scored 11 apiece in the loss, while Paul and Sampson each scored 10. For Paul, it was his second straight game in double figures.
The Pirates are very good at distributing the basketball, leading C-USA with 17.5 assists per game. They'll need to continue that style of play if they hope to knock off the much bigger Pirates.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UCF 69, East Carolina 64
01/12 11:23:32 ET