UCF Falls to Western Kentucky at Fiesta Bowl Classic


Box Score

TUCSON, Ariz. - Despite 18 points from junior forward Josh Peppers and a 13 point, nine assist performance from sophomore guard Mike O'Donnell, the UCF men's basketball team lost its first game at the Fiesta Bowl Classic, falling 73-68 to Western Kentucky at the McKale Center on Monday evening. UCF (5-3) led by 11 at halftime, but the Hilltoppers (6-3) outscored the Golden Knights, 45-29, in the second half.

UCF will face Sam Houston State in the tournament's consolation contest on Wednesday at 6 p.m. The Golden Knights are playing away from the state of Florida for the first time this season.

The Golden Knights led for the first 35 minutes of the game, but the Hilltoppers took a 60-58 lead with 4:57 to go after a three-pointer from Ty Rogers. Peppers answered with a jumper, but Western Kentucky then scored six unanswered points to pull away for the win. Anthony Winchester began the stretch with a pair of free throws and when Rogers canned a jumper with 1:25 on the clock, the Hilltoppers led by six.

"We tried to execute the game plan early," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "We just didn't do what we needed to do down the stretch. We've got to step up and make plays when we need to."

In the second half, Western Kentucky got to the free-throw line on 22 occasions, making 12, as three Golden Knights - Peppers, senior guard Justin Rose and senior forward Anthony Williams - fouled out. UCF made just 2-of-5 attempts at the charity line in the second half.

The Golden Knights seemed to have the game in control with an eight-point edge after a basket by junior forward Lavell Payne, but Western Kentucky came back with three-consecutive three-pointers. Rogers hit a pair and when Courtney Lee connected from deep at the 9:06 mark, UCF led by only one, 56-55.

For the game, UCF shot 46.6 overall and posted 19 assists. In only 19 minutes, senior center Adam Gill recorded 10 points. Rose led the squad with six rebounds and also recorded four assists.

UCF played its best basketball of the season in the first half, shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and limiting the Hilltoppers to just a 12-of-32 (37.5 percent) showing from the field. Peppers scored 11 points in the first half and O'Donnell took 10 points and seven assists in the locker room as the Golden Knights were up 39-28 at the break.

After O'Donnell hit a jumper, UCF led 18-7 with 12:49 to play in the first half. The lead would grow to as many as 13 points and the Golden Knights posted a 33-20 advantage with five minutes on the clock in the first period following a three-pointer from senior guard Troy Lindbeck.

Lee registered a game-high 22 points and nine rebounds. Winchester finished with 14 points and eight boards as the Hilltoppers had a 42-34 edge on the glass. Rogers chipped in with 10 points.

The consolation game will be aired live on the UCF ISP Sports Network and its flagship station, 740-THE TEAM AM. Marc Daniels will have the call from courtside.