Central Florida and St. John’s hope to rebound from disappointing performances and leave with two wins from the AdvoCare Invitational when they meet in the third-place game Sunday afternoon at Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Red Storm coughed up a second-half lead before falling 90-82 to Missouri and UCF had 27 turnovers while getting routed by West Virginia in the semifinals Friday.
St. John’s received a career-high 31 points from sophomore Shamorie Ponds and recovered from a rough start to take an eight-point lead with 12 minutes left, but could not stop Missouri from behind the 3-point line (14-of-27). “I think applying pressure will force turnovers, and sometimes when we get down we get a little overzealous and gamble for steals,” Red Storm coach Chris Mullin told reporters. “Most of the time that opens up good things, but sometimes it opens up other things.” The Knights, who have been without All-American Athletic Conference preseason first-team pick B.J. Taylor (foot) since their opener, had just one player score in double figures and could not find answers in an 83-45 loss to No. 20 West Virginia. “It’s a big learning experience for this group,” UCF coach Johnny Dawkins told reporters. “We have a lot to work on. We know the direction we have to go in going forward.”
TV: Noon ET, ESPNU
ABOUT ST. JOHN’S (5-1): Ponds has scored 57 points in the first two games of the tournament to raise his season average to a team-high 21.0 with 6.2 rebounds and a team-best 4.8 assists. Sophomore guard Marcus LoVett (15.3 points, 13-of-29 from 3-point range) and senior swingman Bashir Ahmed (12.8 points) combined with Ponds to score 62 of the Red Storm’s 82 in the semifinals. Despite a rough game Friday, St. John’s is still averaging 19.3 forced turnovers and 38.2 percent shooting against while surrendering 63.7 points per contest.
ABOUT CENTRAL FLORIDA (4-1): The Knights shot 24.5 percent from the field, including 1-for-12 from 3-point range, against West Virginia with 7-6 junior center Tacko Fall scoring 11 points to lead the way. Fall, who missed the first two games with a hip injury, has produced 11.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and two blocks per contest while 6-9 senior forward A.J. Davis is averaging a double-double (11 points, 11.2 boards). Freshman Ceasar DeJesus and sophomore backcourt mate Chance McSpadden hope to rebound after going 2-for-15 from the field combined in the semifinal.
1. St. John’s G Justin Simon, a transfer from Arizona, leads the team in rebounding (8.8) while scoring 9.3 per game.
2. Davis needs seven rebounds to reach 500 in his career, including his freshman season at Tennessee.
3. Fall boasts 170 blocked shots in just over two seasons while St. John’s 6-11 F Tariq Owens is averaging three swats per game in 2017-18.
PREDICTION: St. John’s 76, UCF 65