We stopped by Tuesday after practice to chat with junior point guard A.J. Rompza about the looming game against Memphis and his return from a foot injury. Rompza has missed the last two games but was averaging 5.4 points and a team high 3.4 assists.
Q: You didn’t play, but you were on that road trip last week. How crazy was that for the team and was there anything like that in your playing career?
A: It was definitely something new for all of us. To us, it wasn’t that bad. It was a couple inches of snow, but I guess it was the coldest, somebody said, since the 1800s, which is kind of crazy. I definitely think it was good for team bonding stuff. Just being able to hang out in the hotel and being around one another.
Q: Do you think it helped or hurt you on game day Saturday? Obviously, you missed that game you normally get on Wednesday and there was just a lot of inconsistency in terms of your schedule.
A: Definitely, but you never want to use that as an excuse. We were still practicing. We practiced even more just with the day off so it wasn’t like we weren’t able to practice.
Q: Right now, you’re trying to work to get back. Where are you right now and how is it feeling?
A: It feels good right now. Obviously, yesterday was the first time that I was actually able to start going. In the hotel, I was doing some elliptical stuff, some weights. Yesterday, I did a lot of stuff. I practiced and I got in the whirlpool and worked out in there. I came back at night and got some shots up. So, I am just trying to work my way back in it. You know, it is going to be hard probably for the first five minutes. After that, it is pretty much all mental. I am going to have to fight through and I told the guys I am going to do whatever it takes to get a win. If that means screaming, whatever it takes right now, because we are at that point.
Q: What is it specifically that now that you have watched the last few games that injecting you back in the lineup can do?
A: I think that it will bring energy off the bench. I think that it is hard for Marcus to run the point for the whole game because he is obviously someone who needs to score for us. It is hard to guard the other point guard who is usually fast. I’ll be able to come in and just do the little stuff. Maybe get a couple stops here and there, push the ball, and whatever it takes to get over this hump.
Q: I imagine now, just like a 14 game winning streak was a great boost to you guys, this seven game streak has to be holding you down a little bit?
A: Anytime you lose games it is not something you’re used to, it is not something you accept. Each practice we have continued to fight harder. I think it is just applying what we do in practice into the games because in practice we’re fighting, we’re scrambling and I think we are one step away. Obviously, the games that they have been playing have been much better. I think its consistency and getting that one stop that we need to get.
Q: When you think about Memphis, what are the kinds of things you think about?
A: Talented athletes and people who are able to break you down one on one. That is why we have to be good defensively as a team. You know, if we get beat, we have to have someone help us right there. We have to fly around. You are going to get beat, that’s the thing. You don’t want to get to close into them. They are so fast. They can drive right past you. Once they break you down, it is kind of lobs and alley oops. We just have to make sure that we stay back but also apply defensive pressure and have a lot of intensity.
Q: What are the aspects that you think the team can take from that loss up there at Memphis and can apply to come out with a better effort against the Tigers?
A: We’re going to come out with a better effort. We have too. We’re right there, like I said, we’re one step away. At Memphis, we watched the film today, it seemed like we were a step slow. So, it was hard trying to watch that tape and seeing how we weren’t helping out with one another. We made that extra pass, but we could have done more.
Q: What do you expect from this crowd? I know you were here a couple of years ago. You were a freshman when that was a record crowd against Memphis. All indications are this is going to be another turnout like that.
A: To go back with that last Memphis game, it was unreal. Just to have that many people here supporting you. We had a 14 game winning streak and people were showing up. Now, we have the losing streak and people are still showing up. It shows you that people do believe in us and they want to watch us play because we are fun to watch. It’s something that we have to embrace and continue to play with that crowd and it will obviously help us.
News & Notes
- Before this current seven game losing streak, the last time UCF Basketball had lost seven or more games in a row came during the 2000-01 season. Kirk Speraw’s club lost ten in a row to end the regular season before going 1-1 in the Atlantic Sun Tournament. Overall, the team was 8-23 that year.
- With a possible sellout eminent against the Tigers, UCF has already established its season high in attendance. So far, a record 85, 854 fans have entered the UCF Arena. The Knights are averaging 6,604 fans a game, up over 1,000 more fans per game than a year ago
- Not only will Wednesday’s game feature the Knights most marquee home opponent of the season, but also a well-known halftime routine. There will be a special performance from The Dueling Pianos from Howl at the Moon.