Memphis, TN (Sports Network) - Two days after pushing themselves back into the national rankings, the Memphis Tigers will face a stern league test against the UCF Knights in Conference USA action at FedExForum.
UCF may not be riding into this game with a number attached to its name but the Knights have still enjoyed a strong season. At 17-6 overall and 7-2 in league play the Knights are tied for second in the conference standings while amassing the third-most overall wins. UCF has won back-to-back games entering Wednesday's bout which will be the first half of a two-game road trip that includes a date with Texas-El Paso on Saturday.
Memphis began the season as the 17th ranked squad in the top-25 but fell out on Nov. 26 after consecutive losses to VCU and Minnesota, who both went on to be ranked this season, and a tight win over Northern Iowa. Since then the Tigers have won 16 of their last 17 games with the lone loss an 87-78 defeat to No. 12 Louisville. The Tigers are alone at the top and undefeated in C-USA action (9-0), while boasting a 14-game winning streak which is currently the second longest in Division I. Memphis will be on the road against Marshall next.
After splitting the season series a year ago Memphis rolled over UCF, 83-52, during the C-USA Tournament. It was the ninth win in the last 10 meetings for the Tigers, who have absolutely dominated the all-time series, 12-1.
On Saturday UCF posted a 10-point victory over East Carolina, 83-73. In the win, five Knights finished in double figures, but it was Isaiah Sykes who stole the show as he posted his second triple-double of the season with 20 points, 16 rebounds and 11 assists.
Sykes (15.7 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.7 apg) is the only player in the country with more than one triple-double this season and one of only six players to have one all year. The 6-foot-5 guard has been extremely versatile, ranking among the top 10 scorers, rebounders and distributors in the conference. Keith Clanton (16.0 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 2.1 bpg) is actually the leading scorer on the roster as well as one of the conference's top rebounders and shot blockers. Tristan Spurlock (11.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Calvin Newell Jr. (11.6 ppg) provide additional scoring support. In all UCF is scoring a solid 71.5 points per game while shooting at the 29th best field goal percentage (.472) in the nation.
In its last outing Memphis took on Southern Miss, which entered the game 7-1 in league play and in sole possession of second in the conference standings. That didn't seem to bother the Tigers, even on the road, as they shot 55.9 percent from the field and knocked down 9-of-19 shots from beyond the arc, while assisting on 27 of their 33 field goals.
There's a reason that Memphis has been so dominant and rightly deserves to be considered one of the top teams in the country. The Tigers play well on both ends of the floor and make very few mistakes. The Tigers are scoring 74.3 points per game, while shooting .474 (24th nationally). Ball movement is always key for the Tigers as they hand out the 14th most assists nationally (16.1 pg). On the defensive end, Memphis holds foes to less than 40 percent shooting. Joe Jackson (13.6 ppg, 4.6 apg) stirs the pot for Memphis as the team's top scorer and distributor. Jackson has been the picture of efficiency as his 52.6 field goal percentage can attest to. Geron Johnson (10.8 ppg) and Adonis Thomas (10.6 ppg) add to the mix.