Men's Hoops Set for War On I-4 in Tampa

Listen on FM 96.9 The Game Watch on ESNPU Live Stats Game Notes

ORLANDO – The UCF men's basketball team is set to renew its longtime rivalry with its neighbors to the west as the Knights visit South Florida on Saturday for a noon tip in Tampa.

The Black and Gold were edged on the road their last time out, falling to Tulane 77-69 on Saturday. UCF was down by as many as 19, its largest deficit of the season, but found a way to claw back into the contest and pull within three points with just over three minutes to go. A few missed shots by both sides kept the game close for the next two minutes, but eventually the Green Wave put a few more points on the board to finish the game.

Tyem Freeman had a career game on Saturday, scoring a career-high 22 points, tying a career-high with seven rebounds and setting a season-high with four assists. Freeman was the team's leading scorer, followed by C.J. Kelly with 17 points and Taylor Hendricks with 15 points and 11 rebounds in his fourth double-double of the season.

Despite the loss, UCF's defense held Tulane below its season average in points scored per game, allowing 77 as opposed to its season average of 82.2. Over the four-game span leading up to the contest, the Green Wave had scored 93.25 points a game. The Knights' defense still ranks among the top 50 in the nation after allowing 104 to Memphis and 77 to Tulane, checking in at No. 36 in field goal percentage defense with a 39.8% mark and No. 39 in scoring defense, allowing 63.4 points per contest. The Black and Gold have limited opponents' three-point percentage throughout the season, holing them to 30.1% from beyond the arc, ranking 43rd in the country.

The Knights are top 50 in a few other categories. UCF shoots 76.5% from the free throw line, a mark that is good enough for 19th in the nation. The Black and Gold check in at 46th in the country in rebound margin per game, outrebounding opponents by an average of 5.2 per game. UCF is 25th in the nation in offensive boards per game, grabbing an average of 12.78.

The Knights have found overwhelming success against in-state opponents under Johnny Dawkins' tenure, posting a 21-6 record. The Black and Gold are 2-1 against Florida foes this season, beating Florida State and Stetson with a two-point loss to Miami, which is now ranked in the top 25 in both the AP and coaches polls.

South Florida enters the contest with a record of 8-11 overall and a 1-5 mark in conference play. The Bulls have dropped their last three games at home, most recently falling to Cincinnati on Wednesday 85-69. Their last home win was back on Dec. 22, a 92-73 win over NJIT. Overall, the Bulls are 5-7 in Tampa this season.

Tyler Harris leads the Bulls in scoring this season after transferring to South Florida from Memphis ahead of the 2022-23 campaign. He averages 16.3 points a game, one of three double digit scorers on the team. Russel Tchewa and Selton Miguel are the other two who average over 10 points a game, posting 11.6 and 10.8 clips respectively.

The Black and Gold currently lead the all-sports War On I-4 tally, earning a 24-6 edge to this point. UCF volleyball earned all six of its sport's points with a season sweep of the Bulls. Women's soccer earned six points for its 2-0 win in Tampa. The cross country squad finished ahead of the Bulls at The American Championship while football earned a 46-39 victory. Another three points are at stake in Saturday's meeting as the contest is the first of two on the hardwood this season.

UCF trails South Florida in the all-time series by a slim 21-25 margin, but its been the Knights who have controlled the narrative in recent memory. In the last 18 meetings, the Knights have gone 14-4. The two sides are 3-3 in the last six meetings. Prior to that, the Knights strung together a nine-game winning streak.

Never miss any UCF Knights news from your favorite team by downloading the free UCF Gameday app right to your iOS or Android phone. The app provides personalized information for men's and women's teams, scores, schedules, loyalty programs and even breaking news. Click here to download the app now.