The Houston Cougars aren't keeping any secrets. They want revenge.
After Central Florida out muscled and out hustled UH to a 78-71 victory on Jan. 20 at Hofheinz Pavilion, the Cougars have been hungry for a rematch.
At 6 p.m. Tuesday in Orlando, Fla., they'll have their shot at redemption.
"We weren't ready to play, that's all I can say," Aubrey Coleman said about the previous loss to the Knights. "We took them too lightly. We didn't have a sense of urgency on the court, and when we tried to come back, it was just too late."
Jan. 20 was an awful night for the Cougars' offense (13-11, 5-5 Conference USA), as it shot a dismal 25 percent overall, including 5-of-25 (20 percent) from behind the arc.
UH's defense didn't perform well, either. UCF (12-12, 4-6) shot 50.9 percent overall and scored 20 more points in the paint (42-22).
Marcus Jordan — the son of legendary basketball player Michael Jordan — led the Knights with a career-high 23 points on 9-of-9 shooting. Three other players, Dave Diakite, A.J. Tyler and A.J. Rompza, also scored in double-figures.
"We played one of our most disappointing games against UCF, and I know our players remember that," head coach Tom Penders said. "We need to get our defensive game plan down and hope that we shoot better than 25-percent this time."
UCF's goal: Spread the wealth, slow down the game
Like they were entering their first matchup with UCF this season, the Cougars are riding a two-game win streak. But this time, they don't want their confidence to consume them.
The Knights have won two of their last three games, but have lost three of their last four contests at UCF Arena.
With eight players averaging five or more points per game, UCF has several offensive options. Only one player, Tyler, averages more than 10 points per game.
The outcome of Tuesday's game may hinge on which team can control the tempo. The Knights, who allow 67.5 points per game, prefer a slower, physical pace. UH averages 79.2 points per contest, but it displayed an ability to adjust to a slower tempo in Saturday's 66-60 win over SMU.
Shots start to fall for Lewis
The Cougars' continued to struggle with their shot as a team last week (37.8 percent average in two games), but Kelvin Lewis broke out of his slump Saturday.
The senior guard scored a season-high 29 points and tied his career high with seven 3-pointers. In addition to holding Robert Nyakundi to 0-of-6 shooting, Lewis recorded four rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Lewis and the the Cougars' leading scorer, Aubrey Coleman, both believed a turnaround was due.
"Slumps will happen and when it does, I just try to focus on other things like defense and rebounding," Lewis said. "I knew my luck would start to change as long as I kept practicing hard. I wasn't stressing about it because I know I could bring my defense to the floor every day."
"I knew it was going to happen sooner or later," Coleman said.
Coleman said this week is extremely crucial, as UH needs to pick up two wins away from home. After winning two games in a row for the first time in nearly a month, the senior guard is feeling optimistic about what lies ahead.
"We're going on the road now. We're going to focus on the conference tournament; that's our big goal right now.
"It's wide open for us."
My thoughts go out to the family of head women's basketball coach Joe Curl, who was hospitalized for chest pains in Dallas on Saturday. Props to the women's team for gutting out a big win over SMU, and good luck to coach Curl on a speedy recovery.