College Hoops Player of the Day for Saturday, October 10, 2012
For the South Florida Bulls, Saturday's meeting with the University of Central Florida was not supposed to go this way.
Bad enough that the Bulls play in the tough Big East and missed a bid for the NCAA tournament with a 19-12 record last season, but getting ripped at home by the Knights was not exactly in the playbook.
Trouble was, the Bulls could not find a player - or even two - to handle match-up nightmare, Isaiah Sykes, a 6'5" junior guard out of Detroit, who lit up the Bulls for 26 points in UCF's 74-56 road win.
Sykes did all of his damage from within the three-point arc, not even attempting a long-range shot, hitting 10 of 16 from the field. When he wasn't scoring, Sykes was hauling down rebounds, getting 11 (five offensive), or dishing to teammates, which he did successfully on eight assists.
Sykes averaged 12.3 points and 6.4 rebounds last season, but has begun the 2012-13 campaign with a bang. He still needs to work on his foul shots, as he made just six on 14 trips to the charity stripe against the Bulls.
UCF raced out to a 40-24 half time lead and coasted to the win, outscoring their hosts by two in the second half. UCF had a huge edge on the boards, 45-26, and held South Florida to 36% shooting.
If their opening game is any kind of indication, the Knights may challenge Memphis (currently ranked 17) for the Conference USA title. UCF handed Memphis a 68-67 defeat in January, but were demolished by the Tigers twice later in the 2011-12 season.
They were 22-10 overall last season, ending their campaign in mid-March with a 81-56 loss to Drexel in the NIT tournament.
Sykes and his teammates have bigger and better ideas about this season.