UCF-Southern Miss. Preview

Central Florida coach Donnie Jones has instilled a

defensive-minded approach in his first year at the school. It was

hard to tell in the team’s last game.

Coming off their first loss, the 23rd-ranked Knights look to

match last season’s win total Saturday when they face a Southern

Mississippi team that’s dropped 17 in a row to Top 25

opponents.

Jones, who coached at Marshall the last three seasons, led the

Thundering Herd to a 24-10 record last year when they finished 19th

in the nation in field goal defense.

Teams averaged 68.3 points and shot 43.9 percent from the field

against the Knights last season under coach Kirk Speraw, but it’s

been a different story in Jones’ first year in Orlando. UCF (14-1,

1-1 Conference USA) is among the best in the country in allowing

58.1 points per game while holding opponents to 36.6 percent

shooting.

The Knights, though, are trying to move past their worst

defensive performance of the season in a 76-71 loss at Houston last

Saturday. The Cougars shot 14 of 29 from the field – 5 of 8 from

3-point range – while building a 15-point halftime lead.

“They came out and played at a really high level, and we didn’t

match their intensity,” Jones said. “They made shots, and that’s

what you’ve got to do to upset teams.”

While the Knights try to equal the 15 wins they posted last

season, the Golden Eagles (13-3, 2-1) are looking for a rare

victory against a ranked opponent. Southern Miss is 6-84 versus Top

25 teams and winless in those matchups since an 83-61 victory over

then-No. 21 Marquette on Jan. 16, 2004.

Coach Larry Eustachy’s team enters this game following

Wednesday’s 81-78 overtime victory at Rice. Senior forward Gary

Flowers, who leads the league with 21.4 points per game, scored six

of his team-best 24 in the extra period as the Golden Eagles

outscored the Owls 11-1 over the final 2:43.

“The story of the game was that our team was able to overcome

the disappointment and letdowns during the game,” Eustachy said.

“To come back showed unbelievable character. You can name any

player on this team and they were the reason why we won.

“It was a great game and a great win. I’m ecstatic that we were

able to pull this one out on the road and I’m extremely proud of

these guys.”

Opening a two-game stretch at Reed Green Coliseum, Southern Miss

will look for its second straight home win in this matchup.

Led by a career-high 24 points from guard Angelo Johnson and 16

points and seven rebounds from Flowers, the Golden Eagles outscored

the Knights by 19 points in the second half of a 68-58 victory in

Hattiesburg on Feb. 20.

Isaac Sosa led UCF with 14 points off the bench, while forward

A.J. Tyler added 13 and Marcus Jordan chipped in with 12.

Jordan, 10th in Conference USA with 16.3 points per game, was

held to 10 last weekend after scoring 26 in each of the previous

two games.

Southern Miss has won four of seven all-time meetings with

UCF.