WHO: USF (8-3) at UCF (9-3)
WHEN: 8 p.m. Wednesday
WHERE: UCF Arena, Orlando
TV: CBS College Sports (Dave Ryan and Pete Gillen)
RADIO: 98.7-FM The Fan (Jim Lighthall and Todd Kalas)
Sirius 123, XM 199
By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - The Bulls will be shorthanded but still plan to show that much has changed since a season-opening loss to UCF when the two teams meet back up Wednesday night.
USF gets a shot at redemption against the Knights at 8 p.m. when the rivalry heats back up at UCF Arena in Orlando. The Knights defeated USF, 74-65, Nov. 10 at the Sun Dome.
"We obviously laid on egg against them the first time and didn't play very well. We're a much different team right now," USF head coach Stan Heath said. "Obviously we have different personnel and different styles we're playing. We have a better idea of who to play, but I'm sure they made some adjustments as well, too. It should be a great game."
USF has had to deal with injuries all season and Wednesday night will be no different with Shaun Noriega (foot) and JaVontae Hawkins (back) out for USF's final non-conference game of the regular season. The Bulls' injury toll increased Saturday in a 61-57 win over George Mason when Anthony Collins was taken to the hospital for tests on what turned out to be a neck sprain. Victor Rudd also suffered a concussion in the Bulls' third straight victory.
Collins is expected to be out while Rudd should be ready to go as USF looks to get to the 9-3 mark after a season after posting seven non-conference wins before Big East play. Kore White (turf toe) also is questionable.
"We just have to go with what we have. We do have a tough team," Heath said. "...I'm proud and pleased that we've found a way to get to 8-3 at this point in time."
USF's ability to hang tough with a limited roster will be tested against a UCF team that's 9-3 and has won six of its past seven games. Keith Clanton (17 ppg) and Isaiah Sykes (14.8 ppg) continue to lead the way after combining for 42 points and 27 rebounds in their season debut against the Bulls.
"It's a very good team, no doubt. Keith Clanton and Isaiah Sykes are two very, very talented players and two guys that we can't let dominate the game like they did the first time around," Heath said.
USF's defense has improved quite a bit since the loss with the Bulls holding seven opponents to fewer than 60 points this season. George Mason went 2-for-15 from 3-point range Saturday against USF and was held to its lowest point total in the past five games.
Heath expects the Bulls to do a better job against the Knights this time around.
"I think it will tell us where we started and where we are right now. I think you'll see significant change," he said. "We weren't defending well. We were giving up layups and a lot of rebounds as well. We're much better than we were before."
USF gets Big East play started Sunday, Jan. 6 at home against Syracuse. The noon game will be televised locally in Tampa on WFTS.