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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Orlando Sentinel - No. 1 Memphis too much for UCF Knights

No. 1 Memphis too much for UCF Knights
Five Tigers score in double figures as the No. 1 team wins its 46th in a row at home.
Kyle Hightower | Sentinel Staff Writer
February 10, 2008

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - There was an early moment during UCF's matchup with No. 1 Memphis on Saturday when Knights guard Mike O'Donnell found himself sandwiched between two of the Tigers' towering players as they set up for a free-throw try.

"Pick one," UCF CoachKirk Speraw shouted back at his senior leader.

Speraw was, of course, simply helping O'Donnell decide who to pick up on defense. But against a Memphis team loaded with height, shooters and athleticism at every position and throughout its bench, he could have easily meant for O'Donnell to pick his poison.

For about 15 minutes Saturday, UCF did exactly what it had to do to hassle, bother and at times even disrupt a Tigers team in search of its 46th straight home win. But as 22 other teams found out before the Knights this season, doing it for a while doesn't cut it.

Memphis led by just eight at halftime, but used a 16-0 run early in the second half to find a clearing en route to an 85-64 win. The victory was the Tigers' 23rd consecutive win this season; they remain unblemished in ConferenceUSA play at 9-0.

"Memphis plays in spurts and they're a team that runs," O'Donnell said. ". . . You gotta give them credit. They're the No.1 team in the country for a reason."

The Tigers spread the wealth, getting five players in double figures, led by freshman point guard Derrick Rose with 15, followed by big man Joey Dorsey's 12. Forward Robert Dozier, back playing after a one-game suspension, added 11 off the bench.

The Knights had four starters in double figures, topped by O'Donnell's 15.

It was no secret coming in that the Knights (12-11, 5-4 C-USA) would need to slow down the fast-paced Tigers, as well as hold them to a manageable shooting night to have a chance.

In the first half -- minus one 7-0 spurt -- UCF did that well. The Knights outshot the Tigers 48 to 42.9 percent and only lost the paint-scoring battle 22-16 in an opening 20 minutes that featured eight lead changes.

Down the stretch, however, Memphis was able to wear down the Knights thanks to its much deeper bench and 7-of-15 shooting from behind the arc in the second half.

"Our guys played well for the first 15 or 16 minutes," Speraw said. "We executed the game plan very, very well. I think Memphis' depth just wore us down. We got a little fatigued at the end of the first half. We were fatigued in the second half and they were rotating through and they all came through and played well."

After a rocky two-week stretch, UCF is off for a week before heading to Rice on Feb. 16.

Though the Knights' toughest conference stretch of the season is over, they will probably need to run the table the rest of the way and get to the C-USA tournament final to have any shot at postseason play.

That would likely mean another matchup with Memphis, but UCF senior Dave Noel said it's one he doesn't dread. Even after Saturday's disappointing ending.

"Oh yeah. Most definitely," he said. "I can't wait."

Kyle Hightower can be reached at

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