The UCF men’s and women’s basketball teams have reached the half-way point of their seasons with 14 games left on each of their schedules. The two programs have a combined record of 11-18 and 2-5 within the American Conference between them, but their seasons have gone down separate paths.
The women’s basketball team got off to a fast start, winning three of their first four games. But the Knights have lost 11 straight games, and haven’t won since Nov. 24 versus South Alabama.
The Knights have shot an abysmal 37 percent from the field and 24 percent from three-point range, with a -7.7 scoring margin against opposing teams.
“Shot selection is one of those things. Sometimes we don’t take good shots, we don’t make the extra pass that could get us a better shot. Knocking down shots, going game speed when we’re in the gym so when we get in the game, it’s not like a whole new thing,” said sophomore guard Aliyah Gregory.
Although the team as a whole hasn’t performed as well as they have in the past, a few of its players have found ways to shine.
Junior guard Zykira Lewis led the Knights in scoring for the second season in a row with 16 points and five rebounds. She reached the 1,000-point mark versus Buffalo moving her to 21st in Knights scoring history. The second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, redshirt junior forward Joslyn Massey, has contributed 10 points and nine rebounds, shooting 54 percent from the field.
This time last year, the Knights stood at .500 with a 7-7 record, but fell apart in the second half of the season, going 3-14 the rest of the way.
The Knights are hoping to turn things around and finish the second half of the season out strong.
“I wish that I could figure it out right away, but from a coaching standpoint we just are thinking about the next game,” said head coach Joi Williams. “We’re not focusing on our record or on our losing streak. It’s almost like a one-game season. Let’s get better today … we got to punch back and we do it at times, but now we have to do it constantly.”
The women’s team will face off against Temple Wednesday at home, after which they will travel to Ohio to battle Cincinnati at 2 p.m. at Fifth Third Arena.
The UCF men’s basketball team had tough opponents right out the gate, facing off against Davidson and UC-Irvine, which have a combined 23-9 record this season. After losing the first two games by a combined six points the Knights won five of their next six and went 5-2 in December.
The emerging leader for this team, redshirt sophomore forward A.J. Davis, led the Knights in scoring with 13 points, six rebounds and four assists, and he’s been named to the American Honor Roll twice this season.
Sophomore guard Adonys Henriquez is the second leading scorer, averaging 12 points, three rebounds, and shooting 38 percent from deep.
“I think we’re figuring out our roles a little bit more,” Davis said. “Just what we need to do as individuals, and it’s starting to come together. It’s a new season, we’re not approaching it any different, we’re just trying to compete in practice and get better every day.”
UCF is hoping this season isn’t a case of deja vu, as they held the same record this time last year 8-6, but struggled down the stretch going 4-12.
The Knights won’t have it easy as they continue conference play, currently tied with UConn for fourth at 2-1.
“It’s conference time,” said head coach Donnie Jones. “I never look ahead I’ve been in this long enough to realize you have to stay in the moment and keep your kids in the moment. Lock into who you’re playing. My job is to focus them on who’s next. Every game’s a tough game, the hardest teams to play are the teams in your conference because you recruit to matchup against them.”
The Knights have had to face challenges off the hardwood this season. Before the season began, freshman center Tacko Fall was in danger of being ruled ineligible for the start of the season based on the NCAA’s academic review of Fall’s high school Liberty Christian Prep.
One day prior to the season opener, the NCAA cleared him to play. Fall had a slow start, but he’s had bright spots. He was named American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Week in December, averaging 15.5 points and 8.5 rebounds while blocking three shots per contest.
For this season, he’s averaging eight points, five rebounds and 2.3 blocks, which also leads the AAC.
And UCF’s sophomore point guard BJ Taylor was officially redshirted beginning in the New Year. Taylor has been dealing with a foot injury this season that has kept him from seeing any action.
Taylor was the 2014-15 AAC Rookie of the Year, averaging 12.9 points, 2.5 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.
The men’s next matchup is Saturday, Jan. 16, when they will host East Carolina at the CFE Arena at 4:30 p.m.
Christopher Davis is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on twitter at @ChristopherDTV or email him at ChristopherD@CentralFloridaFuture.com