Thursday, February 14, 2013

UCF Knights 71 at Memphis Tigers 93 (NCAA Basketball, Conference USA) - February 13, 2013


It is day 3 of the trip and I finally had a day to relax, which meant getting over the jet lag before heading back to the FedEx Forum to watch the Memphis Tigers take on the Central Florida Knights in Conference USA basketball.

I already described the venue in yesterday's post, so I won't bother with any more. I will say that the atmosphere for the college game was superior to that generated for the Grizzlies. There were over 16,000 rabid fans here tonight compared to about 12,000 (14,722 was announced, but many of those were no-shows) the night before. The vibe was so different, I had trouble believing I was in the same place. Even then, I feel that college ball is better suited to somewhat smaller venues. The band is a fixture at every game but in such a large stadium, their impact is muted. Still, you can't argue with such strong attendance.



One notable difference with tonight's setup is that the Tigers' banners from each season are on display as well as some retired numbers including that of Penny Hardaway. Conspicuous by its absence is the 2008 banner, which was taken down after it was determined Derrick Rose allowed someone else to take his SAT exam. That was the year Memphis lost the championship game to Kansas in overtime. Imagine if they had won; there would be no national champion for that year. Gotta love the NCAA when a high school violation can affect the season years later.



The Game



Memphis came in ranked #22 in the nation at 20-3 and on a 14-game win streak. UCF are no slouches either, coming in at 17-6 overall. Their star is Isaiah Sykes (above), the only player in Division 1 with more than one triple-doubles this season (he has two).



The Knights started quickly and maintained a lead for the first eight minutes of the game and were still within a point with less than 5 minutes to go, leading to some complaints from the spoiled fans around me. They had no reason to worry though, as the Tigers knocked down 7 straight points and led at the half 42-36.



A 9-2 run to start the 2nd period gave Memphis a 13-point bulge and when they made three consecutive treys midway through, the game was effectively over at 67-49. In fact, the Tigers continued their barrage and led 91-60 with 3 minutes to go, before UCF used the remaining garbage time to make the score slightly more respectable.



The Tigers are a great team, with Joe Jackson (below) the clear leader. His 21 points and 10 assists paced the team but four others scored in double figures, including D.J. Stephens with some monster dunks that brought the fans out of their seats. The Memphis defense was also quite strong and I'd expect this team to do well come March.



Notes

NCAA basketball rankings are stupid. In mid-November, Memphis lost to a couple of teams that are now ranked and it sent them out of the top 25 for months. They have won 15 in a row and are undefeated in conference play yet have only made it up to #22. If there are 21 better teams in the country, I'd be very surprised.

This was my 400th venue in which to see a live sporting event. However, it doesn't count toward the Quest for 400, as I am not including NCAA stadiums on that list. Yeah, it's confusing.

Next Up

I'm off to OKC where the Heat are in town tomorrow night in a rematch of the NBA Finals. It should be a great game so check back for a recap.

Best,

Sean

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