The buildup to SEC play continues on Wednesday night for the Ole Miss Rebels as it faces the Central Florida Golden Knights.
Ole Miss (7-2) has three games remaining before its first SEC tilt vs. Tennessee, so this is another prime opportunity to work on closing out games and for guard Daeshun Ruffin to get 100 percent back to his old self.
Ruffin is coming off an ACL tear from last season plus a preseason injury that sidelined him for the month of November. His first game of the season against the Memphis Tigers resulted in three points and four assists in 14 minutes of play while shooting 16.7 percent from the floor. In his second game back against Valparaiso, he scored 14 points in only 11 minutes on the court (86% FG).
In Ruffin’s absence, freshman Amaree Abram has been successful to say the least, averaging more than 10 points per game. Junior guard Matthew Murrell has shouldered most of the offensive load this season averaging 14.3 points per game on a team scoring 72.3 points per game.
UCF should bring a different level of talent and ability compared to the Valpo team Ole Miss blew out over the weekend. The Golden Knights (7-2) play in a fairly competitive basketball conference and have played Power 5 opponents Oklahoma St. (won 60-56 in OT), Florida St. (won 68-54) and Miami (lost 66-64.
The one big question for UCF, however, is how it will handle a true road game as all nine games for the Knights have been either on its home court in Orlando or a neutral site in the Bahamas. What a tough life to live in November and December in tropical destinations.
Now, certainly a mid-week crowd at the SJB Pavilion is not going to be raucous or filled with students, however, there is something to be said for the home team being far more comfortable in its own arena. The oddsmakers have given Ole Miss a six-point spread to cover, which seems about right, though I wouldn’t put a lot on this one. UCF currently is ranked No. 77 in the latest NET rankings while Ole Miss comes in at No. 58.
These are the kinds of games coach Kermit Davis needs to win as far as fan expectations go. UCF is in the same conference as Memphis though it does not has the pedigree the Tigers do. Going 0-2 against the American Athletic Conference would not be a great look in his fifth season, so this game has a good bit of importance. It could turn out UCF ends up being the third or fourth best team in a conference with one of the best group of five teams in the country (Houston) - could certainly end up a quality win when its all said and done.
How to watch
Where: Sandy and John Black Pavilion, Oxford, Miss.
When: 6:30 pm CT
TV: SEC Network+
Online streaming: WatchESPN