Basketball season is just days away.
UCF officially tips it off this Saturday at South Florida, but to give fans an early teaser they conducted a public scrimmage on Monday night which was followed by an autograph signing.
UCF Scrimmage & Fan Night Photo GalleryClick In the first half, the "White" squad included Isaiah Sykes, Rod Days, Tristan Spurlock, Keith Clanton and Kasey Wilson. Suiting up for the "Black" were Daiquan Walker, Calvin Newell, Bobby Horodyski, Dylan Karell and Staphon Blair. The 15-minute period was won by White, 41-26.Here to view this Link.
The rosters were shuffled in the second half with Walker and Blair joining White in exchange for Spurlock and Wilson. Black won this session, 30-29.
Clanton led the way with 26 points and Days chipped in 22.
Coach Donnie Jones said afterward they weren't as sharp as he would have hoped.
"We played tired tonight for some reason," Jones said. "We played a little flat. Like most guys right now during this time, they get tired of playing against each other. They've got to be able to fight through that. It's season time now. I know they're excited to play against another opponent (this Saturday).
"Tonight we got some things done well, but defensively we've got to get better. Tonight we got caught up in a little bit of a pickup game which is what happens sometimes."
UCF should see a consistent effort every night from Clanton and Sykes, both All-Conference USA caliber players. Clanton recently was named the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year. The Knights' success likely hinges on the continued development of the surrounding cast.
"I think Rod Days is getting better," Jones said. "I thought Rod has played well. Daiquan (Walker) has played well. He didn't play so great tonight. Sometimes the freshmen get a little mentally tired. We've practiced five days in a row here and we practiced this morning, so they're learning how to put it all together.
"I think Kasey Wilson is shooting the ball extremely well for us in that spot, which will be good. I think Tristan has played well. He didn't make some shots tonight, but we're going to need an effort from him for us to be really good."
UCF is playing without freshman guard Matt Williams, who underwent an emergency appendectomy on Oct. 26. He will be out for an extended period.
"He's feeling better, but he's still in the hospital," Jones said. "It will take a little time. We're not sure what his timeframe will be, but he is improving each day. Any time you have that kind of injury it takes a little time."
The depth situation wasn't ideal going in, but the Knights will have to make due. Williams had been expected to share point guard duties.
"You're going to see Sykes (at point guard) a good bit," Jones said. "You saw tonight he can play that spot. He's probably our best passer on our team. He's got a great feel for that. So he'll be playing that spot some and Daiquan (Walker) is going to play some as well. We'll have to do it by committee."
UCF will be challenged right out of the gate by USF, a team that won two games in the NCAA Tournament a season ago. Stan Heath was honored with the Big East Coach of the Year award after leading the Bulls to a 22-14 record and sixth-place league finish.
"They're very well-coached," Jones said. "Defensively, they're a terrific team. They play very hard. They're very aggressive. That's kind of been the footnote of why they've had success. We know it's going to be a physical game, a tough game and a very athletic game. We're going into a hostile environment."
Saturday's game will be the grand opening of USF's newly renovated Sun Dome. The future conference rivals will meet again in Orlando on Jan. 2.
"We've got a couple bus loads (of fans going to Tampa) from our Victory Club, our booster club," Jones said. "We'll have a lot of support. A lot of guys are excited about coming down. It should be good. We'll be well represented this weekend."