Knights Are Ready for Tournament Action

UCF opens the Conference USA tournament Wednesday at 2:30 against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. The Knights played Southern Miss back in January in Orlando and recorded a 73-61 victory. Find out if they are ready from the only Orlando media attending practice in Memphis.

In January, UCF was at full strength with Tony Davis and a completely healthy A.J. Rompza, and they sported a 12-6 record after the victory. Since the calendar turned to February, the Knights have struggled mightily. UCF has lost seven out of their last nine games, and it would've been nine out of nine if not for some late game rally's and heroics. UCF hasn't recorded a victory away from their home court since January, but head coach Kirk Speraw believes that the ECU victory on Saturday may kick things back in the right direction.

"I think we've got a better mental approach now after the ECU game," Speraw told Inside Knights. "I think our guys are really excited about the challenge. Hopefully we'll come out and play with confidence."

Although UCF handled Wednesday's opponent earlier this season and Southern Miss has dropped it's last five games, Speraw is well aware how dangerous of a team that the Golden Eagles can be.

"They're a team that's been struggling in February just like we have been," Speraw said. "It's a fresh start for both of us and they have four very good scorers. Any of them can go for 30 on a given night. Jeremy Wise, I think Courtney Beasley, he's probably one of the most underrated players in our league. He really does an outstanding job for them. He's crafty, he's got one of those old man's games, he's pretty hard to stop and you have to appreciate what he does."

Four out of Southern Miss' five starters are 6'3" and shorter, which would likely give UCF an advantage in the low post and on the glass. Still, Speraw vows that UCF isn't going to change it's game plan to try and exploit the Golden Eagles lack of size.

"We're going to do what we do," Speraw said. "I don't think we can change anything, they've had a disadvantage there all year long. It will be hard to take advantage of it."

The Knights know just how dangerous Southern Miss can be, as they defeated UCF last season in the quarterfinals of the tourney. Even though the Knights are the higher seed and thus the favorite, anything can happen.

"We go into all these conference tournaments 0-0 so it's a fresh start and hopefully our guys take advantage of that," Speraw said. "You have to take care of your scheme offensively and defensively. You really have to play with poise and composure, and play every possession as hard as you can."

The Knights need the entire team to step up and extend the great Jermaine Taylor's UCF career for at least one more game. Taylor is a candidate for C-USA Player of the Year, which will be announced Wednesday.

"I think he's had an outstanding season and I think he's very deserving, just like other players in the league are very deserving," Speraw said of his star guard. "Jermaine means more to our team, more than any other player in the country means to their teams. That's how much he means to us."

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