Refocus on Defense Needed for UCF Basketball

Florida’s Chandler Parsons went 1-9 from the field and Miami’s starting frontcourt shot 28.5 percent.  While most of nation focused on the scoring of Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton during UCF’s 14-0 run, the Knights defense, highlighted by these numbers from their two signature wins, was what really fueled the fast start.

In the back to back losses versus Houston and Southern Miss, UCF allowed their third and most points in a game this season.  In 16 games, opposing teams have only shot 37.6 percent from the field.  The Cougars and the Golden Eagles came in at 48.1 and 51.6 percent, respetively.

Clearly, the need to get back to what made the Knights successful lingers after two subpar defensive showings.

“We need to have practices like we had today,” said Keith Clanton on Monday. “We have to come out hard.  We have to approach practices like the game because now in the games people are attacking us instead of us attacking them.”

In defeat, UCF’s defense was attacked in different ways.  Houston got hot from the perimeter, keyed by three first half three pointers form Kirk Van Slyke.  Even more surprising was the way Southern Miss was successful.  USM picked up 44 points in the paint and UCF finished the game with no blocks after being among the nations’ leaders in the category throughout the year.

“They spaced us out with the way they played,” said head coach Donnie Jones.  “Tom [Herzog] had to go out on the perimeter a lot.  He got two quick fouls.  It was a hard matchup for him.  We were in zone and tried to do different things to hide our problems, but we didn’t do a very good job.  The ball got into the post too easy.”

To resurrect a sagging defense UCF plans to rely on a term used frequently at the practice facility this week, energy.  Coach Jones remarked that while his team has been playing with effort, they have not been consistent throughout 40 minutes.

There might not be a better way to receive that needed boost then returning home.  The Knights two games against ECU and Rice this week at the UCF Arena provides an opportunity to draw off the energy of a growing fan base.  Also, it allows them to prove they can withstand adversity.

“We just need to win these two games just to get back to having a winning record in conference,” said Clanton.  “We just want to be at the top of conference at the end of it so we just have to win every game on out.”

Despite taking a hit in the last two contests and dropping from the top 25 polls, the road towards success in Conference USA still lies ahead.  Every team already has one loss, setting this up as perhaps the most competitive season in the league’s history.  Southern Miss is tied with UTEP on top of the CUSA standings with 3-1 records.

“I think there could be as many as four losses for the team up top,” said Jones.  “I think the league is very competitive.  There are no easy road games, anywhere.  I think the gap has closed.  There are new coaches in the league who are good.  Plus, there is a lot of returning veterans from a lot of teams from last year.”

But again, Jones and the Knights know if they want to regain their early season magic it will be found with defense.

“We have to be able to slow down and grind and be able to handle runs, especially on the road.”

News & Notes

  • Wednesday’s opponent, ECU, enters at 9-8 with a 1-2 record in Conference USA.  UCF has already scored a win over their first year head coach, Jeff Lebo, when they defeated his former team, Auburn, in Daytona last year.
  • UCF is currently on pace to shatter the average home attendance record of 5,411, set last season.  At 6,103, the Knights currently rank third in CUSA, behind Memphis (16,678) and UTEP (7,929).
  • After the two losses, UCF still looks to have a favorable RPI.  RealTimeRPI.com has the Knights checking in at 19th in their most recent evaluation.  The NCAA will release their official version later in the week
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