John Denton's Knights Insider

Nov. 19, 2009

By John Denton

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UCF men's basketball coach Kirk Speraw knows his young Knights are about to face one of the most difficult stretches of the season and could very well struggle at times.

And deep down, Speraw is excited about the prospect of that very thing happening because he wants to see how a team full of mostly freshmen and sophomores respond to a bit of adversity.

At 2-0 following big wins against UMass and Howard, UCF has been surrounded by a feel-good vibe so far this season. But with three games against Auburn (Friday), Niagara (Saturday) and Drake (Sunday) dead ahead in the Glenn Wilkes Classic at Daytona Beach's Ocean Center, Speraw knows that the Knights will be tested in several ways this weekend.

``It'll be a huge measuring stick. We'll get slapped around in different phases of the game and hopefully we can respond and step up to the challenges,'' Speraw said. ``This weekend isn't going to define our season in any way, but it's something that will be a challenge for us and we're looking forward to it. It will tell us some things about where we are as a team and with some individuals.''

UCF is looking to see how it stacks up against a Southeastern Conference foe in Auburn (1-1). The Tigers beat Niagara in their season-opener, but were upset 73-62 on Monday by Missouri State.

The Knights routed Atlantic 10 power UMass 84-67 last Friday night and did what it had to in a sloppy 68-59 defeat of Howard on Tuesday. The Auburn test will allow the Knights to find out how far along they are in this young season.

``Auburn's a better team than we've faced and they press a lot and that will show what kind of poise and patience and how we execute our offense,'' said UCF redshirt freshman Dave Diakite, who has averaged 9.0 points and 9.0 rebounds through two games.

Added junior guard Taylor Young: ``We'll have to really execute well in that game because we know Auburn will be big and physical. We'll have to keep them off the glass. It will be a challenge and we've got to get ready to play these next three days in a row.''

Speraw is most interested to see how his team can handle the rigors of playing three consecutive games in a row. As much as the physical rigors, Speraw wants to see how his team of first and second-year players can mentally process three games in three days.

``You've got three different scouting reports that might be totally different and you don't have a day of practice in between,'' he said. ``We'll get to see if guys can take what we show them on tape and with the scouting report and we'll see if they can execute that during the game.

``That's tough for anybody and the first time through it for a lot of these guys will be interesting to see,'' Speraw continued. ``We'll get to see how they handle this mental exercise we'll put them through.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears several times per week on UCFAthletics.com. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.