UCF looks to bounce back from an embarrassing loss at Rice while hosting a red hot UTEP Miners team who has been knocking off Conference USA giants during a 4-game winning streak.
Heading into this week, UCF was getting talk as a team right on the bubble for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament but those hopes were dashed with a disappointing effort in a nine-point loss to Rice. UCF controlled the game leading by as many as 15 points on the strength of shooting 70 percent in the first half of the contest but literally gave the game away in the second half committing 10 of the 18 total turnovers in the loss. The Knights lost despite shooting 54 percent from the floor and hitting 10 of 18 3-point shots; that recipe equates to a win more often than not.
Tonight, the Knights welcome the UTEP Miners in from the other side of the conference who are red hot winning their last four games including back to back wins over Memphis and Southern Mississippi. Before that stretch, UTEP lost four straight against Tulane, Houston, Rice, and UAB while their four-game win streak has come against the top three teams in the Conference USA standings. The Miners have four players in double-figures on the season led in scoring by Michael Perez who averages 12 points a contest.
UCF comes into this game with a big advantage on the glass as the Knights average six more rebounds per contest than the Miners. The Miners make up for their lack of rebounding with their outside shooting as they shoot 35 percent from behind the arc while the Knights are dead last in the conference shooting just 31 percent. UTEP also makes the opponents pay from the line as they are fourth-best in the conference from the free throw line at 70 percent while UCF has lost a few games this season due to their poor free throw shooting which sits at 63 percent on the season.
A win tonight would give the Knights their 20th win on the season and back to back 20-win seasons which has not happened at UCF in eight seasons. The last time the Miners flew to Orlando, they routed the Knights 96-59 as Randy Culpepper scored 39 points hitting shots from everywhere on the court and even a few from Bithlo. Oddsmakers have UCF favored by seven as they are 14-1 at home this season with their only loss coming to Southern Miss. UCF needs the victory to stay in the top four seeds of the conference as Marshall, Rice, UTEP, and UAB are right on their heels.