Knights must compensate for lack of size in the paint to win games
Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 16:11
UCF (1-1) hopes it can find some value in defeat.
The men's basketball team struggled to hang with a bigger and more experienced team on Monday, when the Knights fell 73-50 to No. 24 Florida State (2-0) in Tallahassee.
While the game wasn't pretty, it did highlight some good things and some bad things for head coach Donnie Jones and his staff to take in going forward in preparation for Friday's game against the High Point Panthers (1-1).
The most glaring struggle the Knights had was dealing with the Seminoles' big and athletic frontcourt.
UCF simply could not penetrate and create points in the paint against FSU, and on the other side of the floor the Knights were unable to stop the Seminoles if they got the ball down low.
The Knights got only 19 minutes out of forward Dwight McCombs because of foul trouble, and they could have used help from forward Josh Crittle, but he was still suspended for violating team rules. Jones said Crittle will be back for Friday's game against High Point, adding some more size to his lineup.
More time out of those two players should help when UCF faces bigger lineups in the future.
Still, the Knights could have used a better outing from forward Keith Clanton, who did have 11 points on the night but also took only seven shots, an uncharacteristic number for one of the team's offensive focal points.
"Their length, their athleticism, their size really bothered us inside," Jones said. "Keith's got to score for us. … We were putting the ball in his hands to make plays, and he was getting frustrated because he wasn't able to get to the rim or get anything easy with their size."
While the Knights are bigger and more athletic on the wings than in years past, they are still not necessarily large enough to compete in the paint with some of the games' bigger teams, and compensating for that will need to be an area of focus going forward.
Another area of concern highlighted in Monday's game was the Knights' shooting.
The team shot 30.5 percent on the evening, a tough pill to swallow when UCF was going to have to rely on good shooting to have a shot at spacing out FSU's frontcourt.
"[Monday] was a night we had to make some shots from the outside," Jones said. "We didn't do a very good job at that."
Guard Marcus Jordan made his return after missing the exhibition and the team's season opener. Jordan made his very first shot of the season and at times looked like he hadn't missed a beat. But as time wore on and the Seminoles started keying on Jordan as Clanton's touches went down, the junior guard struggled and finished the game five-of-16.
"[Marcus] had some good looks, and he missed them, but there's going to be nights where he makes those kinds of shots," Jones said.
UCF will also need to see more output from transfer forward Tristan Spurlock.
Spurlock played well, making three of his six 3-point attempts, but passed on some shots Jones said he would have liked to have seen him take. Jones said that perhaps Spurlock wasn't quite aggressive enough, especially on a night where his shooting could have kept things manageable for the Knights.
The final score may not necessarily reflect it, but for a majority of the contest UCF played well on the defensive end.
The Knights matched FSU's physicality on the defensive end, and nine of the Seminoles' 19 turnovers were UCF steals. The Knights also blocked five shots. Jones said afterward that it was inefficiency on the offensive end that finally translated to the defensive end.
"I thought our kids played hard," Jones said. "We played well enough defensively for a while but when you go for long periods of time and don't score, it makes it very hard to win against a very good team like this."
That defensive effort will be important on Friday. High Point nearly pulled off a big upset when the Panthers lost 67-65 to the Boilermakers on the road. Senior guard Shay Shine is the team's leading scorer, averaging 18 points per game through High Point's first two contests.
A large part of the Knights' sloppy and streaky play may be in part because of lineup issues.
With suspensions and eligibility issues prevalent in the first week of the season, the team has been off pertaining to rotations and chemistry on the floor, two things that should get better and put UCF in a better place for success.
Minus guard A.J. Rompza, who is expected to miss significant time this season pertaining to the NCAA's investigation into Ken Caldwell and his ties at UCF, the Knights should be at full strength when they play the Panthers, perhaps allowing Jones to get his players playing more within themselves and creating some chemistry to build upon.