Back-to-back losses: what’s next?
Published: Sunday, January 16, 2011
Updated: Sunday, January 16, 2011 16:01
This was bound to happen.
Perhaps not twice in a row, but it was bound to happen.
The Knights, despite their amazing start to the season, were going to lose some games.
Starting off undefeated throughout non-conference play with a 14-0 record is remarkable enough. Staying undefeated throughout a challenging and demanding Conference USA season would have been something else entirely.
That didn't happen, though, and now the Knights will be back to the drawing board, looking to rebound after two straight conference losses with the East Carolina Pirates coming to town Wednesday.
Kept in perspective, the two losses aren't particularly awful. The loss in Houston to the Cougars appeared to be a "something's got to give" game, with the Knights' luck finally running out. UCF came out of the gate slow, stars Marcus Jordan and Keith Clanton didn't play to their normal standards, and the Knights dug a hole they were unable to dig themselves out of.
The Southern Miss game was a matchup of two of C-USA's top teams. For 27 minutes, that's exactly how it played out. The Knights appeared to have resolved many of their issues from the week before, playing a very good Southern Miss team tightly.
Then in the last 13 minutes, the Knights gave a top team in their conference an inch and ended up losing a mile.
Head coach Donnie Jones talks a lot about his team playing the whole forty minutes, bringing the effort from start to finish. Even through the 14 wins, he didn't believe he'd seen his team play a complete game.
The Knights didn't even come close the past two games.
UCF didn't have much of a first half at all against Houston and they collapsed in the end against the Golden Eagles.
Playing start to finish is something UCF will have to improve on in order to right the ship during league play, with other C-USA teams now smelling blood in the water.
"This team is not used to playing at that next level that you need to play at," said Jones in a release.
The Knights don't appear to be adjusting in games, either. In games against Princeton, Miami and Marshall, the Knights trailed but made adjustments to come out on top. UCF was unable to fully close the gap against Houston, despite cutting into the Cougars' lead multiple times.
Against Southern Miss, the Knights were up by four midway through the second half, but then could not find an answer as the Golden Eagles went on a small run that ballooned into a 21-2 run. Basketball is a game of scoring runs and they happen every game, but allowing a team to score 19 unanswered points isn't going to win the Knights many games.
As mentioned earlier, Jordan and Clanton may not have had their best efforts against Houston, but against Southern Miss, both played well. It was a lack of production from the rest of the roster that truly hindered the Knights. When the Knights were winning, they were finding scorers in different places every game, which is something they will have to get back to.
The games in Texas and Mississippi also represent the second and third true road games of the season for UCF. The Knights played two neutral site games in Florida, one "away" game at nearby Stetson, and a true road game at UMass. The Knights are struggling with their game on an away court.
Now the Knights get a chance to come home and correct some mistakes on their home floor.
East Carolina will come to town with a 9-7, 1-1 record. While out of the polls for the moment, UCF's dream season and potential at-large tournament bid are not lost. However, the Knights cannot allow the losses to continue to pile up. After the Pirates, the Rice Owls will bring their 8-10 record to town on Saturday, affording the Knights an opportunity for two conference wins before traveling to Memphis on Jan. 26.
It's not time to jump ship. To call Wednesday's game against ECU anything but a must-win would be unwise.