Previewing The Cincinnati Bearcats v. The Central Florida Knights

Jan 15, 2014; Piscataway, NJ, USA; UCF Knights head coach Donnie Jones during the second half of game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Louis Brown Athletic Center. Rutgers Scarlet Knights defeat the UCF Knights 85-75. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

The 15th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats face the 9-7 UCF Knights tomorrow night at Fifth Third Arena. Let’s preview the game.

KEY NUMBERS

Central Florida can score some points, averaging over 75 per game, but have seen their product plummet of late. The Knights scored just 46 in their loss to SMU last Saturday. But where UCF really makes its money is on the glass. They are the best team in the AAC at rebounding the basketball, averaging 40.4 per game. This is especially so on the offensive end, where the Knights reel in 14.4 per game (1st in the AAC, 14th nationally). They aren’t too shabby on the defensive end either, grabbing 26.4 boards per game which is good for 2nd in the conference.

Where Central Florida struggles is holding onto the basketball. The Knights are turning the ball over 13.4 times per game. That’s 2nd worst in the AAC. So where the Bearcats can hurt UCF is in the open floor, applying full-court and half-court presses to strip the ball and get easy points off turnovers.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Tristan Spurlock (#1): No one UCF player dominates the glass over the others. The Knights are equal opportunity rebounders. But Tristan Spurlock slightly rises above the rest averaging 6.5 boards per game to go along with his 11.8 points per game. Plus the 6’8″ 230 lbs forward shoots well from the free throw line (76.6%). So if he goes up, grabs a foul, and his team is in the bonus, he’ll likely turn it into quick points. Be wary, Justin Jackson.

Jan 15, 2014; Piscataway, NJ, USA; UCF Knights guard/forward Isaiah Sykes (3) drives to the basket against Rutgers Scarlet Knights guard/forward Craig Brown (15) at Louis Brown Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Isaiah Sykes (#3): This guy reminds me a lot of JaQuon Parker when he was a senior at Cincinnati. Sykes is not only adept at scoring points, averaging a team leading 15.4 per game, but can grab rebounds himself. At 6’6″, he’s on the tall side for a guard and snags 6.2 boards per game. That’s second best to only Tristan Spurlock and likely plays with the kind of fire around the rim that Parker did during his time at UC.

BEST MATCHUP

Isaiah Sykes v. Titus Rubles: A guard v. a forward matchup seems out of the ordinary. Stay with me here. In all likelihood Justin Jackson will be manned up on Tristan Spurlock. That will leave Titus Rubles with the responsibility of snagging any errant rebounds to don’t go in the direction of Jackson/Spurlock. But given Isaiah Sykes’ innate abilities to swoop in and grab them himself, that could give Rubles a surprise if he isn’t prepared. Plus the Knights are just strong all around at rebounding the basketball and Cincinnati will need players not named Justin Jackson to step up.

FINAL THOUGHTS AND PREDICTION

The Knights are strong in a lot of areas where the Bearcats tend to struggle if Justin Jackson isn’t on the floor. I’m talking about rebounding. So it worries me some if Jackson gets into foul trouble, which he has a few times this season, and Central Florida starts to pound the glass. But UCF struggles in an area that feeds into Cincinnati’s strength, turnovers. And that will certainly help swing the game in UC’s favor. Given that this game is at home, I’ll pick the Bearcats to win their 11th in a row.

Cincinnati: 70

Central Florida: 62

Topics: Bearcats, Bearcats Basketball, Cincinnati

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