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January 29, 2014

Memphis-UCF game preview

With the season winding down, things have to get going for some of the teams in college basketball. This is the time of the year when marquee wins become a goal in order to get into the NCAA tournament.

Either winning the conference regular season title or the conference tournament becomes a big deal, especially for seeding in the tournament. The No. 22/22 Memphis Tigers' goal is to get on a winning streak and win a bulk of the remaining games on their schedule.

Right now, the Tigers are on a three-game winning streak and Memphis coach Josh Pastner hopes their winning ways can continue as they will hit the road to take on the Central Florida Knights (9-8, 1-5 AAC).

The Knights are looking for their first win since the first week of January. They are coming into this game riding a four-game losing streak. In those four defeats, they have lost by double digits each time.

In their last game, UCF's loss to No. 13/15 Cincinnati Bearcats (19-2, 8-0 AAC) was nothing less than a disaster. The shots weren't falling for Central Florida and they allowed for senior guard Sean Kilpatrick to score a game-high 19 points as the Bearcats stayed undefeated in conference play with a 69-51 victory.

Versus the Bearcats, Central Florida shot 38.5 percent (20-of-52) from the field, 27.8 percent (5-of-18) from long range, and 35.3 percent (6-of-17) from the free throw line. No player on the roster scored over 15 points. Senior guard Calvin Newell finished the game with 12 points. Sophomore forward Staphon Blair added 11 points.

The Knights leading scorer, Isiah Sykes, had only nine points and shot 16.6 percent (2-of-12) from the field. In order for the Knights to get the win over Memphis, Sykes will have to have a better game shooting the basketball from the perimeter.

Not only Sykes has to be on his A-game, every player on the court has to play well if UCF wants to upset Memphis. Senior forward Tristan Spurlock is averaging 11.1 points a game this season. Junior forward Kasey Wilson is averaging 10.2 points and 5.6 rebounds a game. Both of these guys have to help Sykes score points.

After Memphis (15-4, 5-2 AAC) defeated the South Florida Bulls (10-10, 1-6 AAC) by the final score of 80-58 on Sunday, Pastner talked about how good of a team Central Florida is.

"We are going to have to bring our A-game and we know we're going to have to be really good," said Pastner. "When you are on the road in conference play, it's just hard. Obviously in the American, everyone is very good."

As a team, the Knights are averaging 73.9 points a game. They are shooting 44.1 percent (445-of-1008) from the field and 59.5 percent (244-of-410) from the free throw line. The Knights will have to do a much better job knocking down shots from the field and at the line. Memphis is the type of team that's capable of scoring in the 80s on any given night.

The Tigers are clicking at the right time with their senior guards playing at a high level. Senior guard Chris Crawford finally woke up in the win over the Bulls as he scored 15 points off five made shots from beyond the arc. Joe Jackson has scored 32 points in the last two games while shooting over 50 percent from the field.

However, if an MVP of the team were being chosen right now, it would have to go to sophomore forward Shaq Goodwin. He's currently averaging 13.2 points and seven rebounds a game.

In the last two games, Goodwin had great performances, finishing with a total of 33 points and 16 rebounds. Goodwin talks about what the team needs to do heading into the game against Central Florida.

"Going into Wednesday's game, we are going to start practice with a game plan, try to stay focused and keep our energy up."

Memphis has the advantage over Central Florida when it comes to scoring points and shooting the basketball from the field and free throw line. Memphis is currently averaging 80.7 points a game while shooting 48.3 percent (565-of-1169) from the field and 64.6 percent (307-of-475) from the line.

This is a game that the Tigers should expect to win if they come out with the proper intensity and focus.

The game between the Tigers and Knights is slated for Wednesday at 6 p.m. CST at the CFE Federal Credit Union Arena in Orlando, Fla. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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