|Date of game: 3/7/2014
Houston (16-14) at UCF (11-17)
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars and UCF Knights close out their regular seasons on Friday evening, as they square off in an American Athletic Conference matchup at CFE Arena.
The Cougars have won four straight games to move to 16-14 overall and 8-9 in AAC action. Houston knocked off USF at home this week (78-69) and has earned a first-round bye in the upcoming conference tournament with a sixth-place finish.
The Knights will be playing in the first round of the AAC Tournament, as they have struggled to a mere 3-14 conference mark, tied with Temple and South Florida for last place. UCF has dropped two straight and four of its last five games, including a hard-fought 86-78 setback in overtime to Temple on Tuesday.
These two teams battled in a shootout on Feb. 22, an 88-84 victory for Houston at Hofheinz Pavilion.
Looking at Houston's stat line, it isn't a surprise the team is hovering around the .500 mark. The Cougars are averaging 71.0 ppg, while allowing around the same amount (.71.6 ppg). The team does shoot a decent .459 from the floor overall, with three players averaging double figures. TaShawn Thomas leads the way as one of the conference's top big men. Thomas leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg), rebounding (8.2 rpg) and blocked shots (2.79 bpg). Danuel House (13.6 ppg) and Jherrod Stiggers (10.6 ppg) provide some scoring balance.
The Cougars shot an impressive 55 percent from the floor, including 12-of-23 from behind the arc, distancing themselves from the Bulls to keep their winning streak going. House led the way, just missing a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds. L.J. Rose added 16 points to the cause, while Stiggers finished with 15.
The Knights were missing their top playmaker as Isaiah Sykes missed the game against Temple with a foot injury. Calvin Newell did his best to fill the void, matching a season-high with 23 points, but it wasn't enough in the loss to the Owls. Kasey Wilson added 14 points and seven rebounds, while Matt Williams checked in with 11 points off the bench in the setback.
Sykes is listed as questionable for the season finale and if he can't go, UCF is at a distinct disadvantage. The Knights rely heavily on Sykes' playmaking, as he tops the team in both scoring (16.1 ppg) and assists (95). Tristan Spurlock (11.1 ppg) and Newell (10.1 ppg) are also double-digit threats, while Wilson (9.5 ppg) checks in just under that mark. UCF isn't the most productive offensive squad with Sykes in the lineup, at 71.3 ppg, on a modest .436 shooting overall.
Thomas is a difference maker inside and if Sykes is once again unable to suit up, the Cougars should be able to continue their winning ways.
GAME NOTES: The Houston Cougars and UCF Knights close out their regular
seasons on Friday evening, as they square off in an American Athletic
Conference matchup at CFE Arena.Fact Stats
FACTS & STATS: Site: CFE Arena (9,993) -- Orlando, Florida.
Television: CBSSN. Home Record: Houston 12-4, UCF 9-7. Away Record: Houston
3-8, UCF 2-10. Neutral Record: Houston 1-2, UCF 0-0. Conference Record:
Houston 8-9, UCF 3-14. Series Record: .Game Date and Time
Friday, March 7, 7 p.m. (ET)Predicted Outcome
Houston 73, UCF 68