Golden Knights to Open the Season on Wednesday

Nov. 14, 2006

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will open the 2006-07 regular season on Wednesday evening at home against cross-town foe Rollins. Tip-off at the UCF Arena is set for 7:30 p.m.

A year ago, the Golden Knights topped Rollins in the season-opener for both schools, 68-58. Last season, UCF went 14-15 overall and 7-7 to finish fifth in its first season in Conference USA. The team is led by Josh Peppers (13.7 ppg last year) and Mike O'Donnell (8.3 ppg, 4.0 apg). UCF returns eight letterwinners from last season.

Tickets for the game are available by visiting www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 407-839-3900. Season tickets are also currently available by calling 407-UCF-1000.

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

UCF is entering its final campaign at the UCF Arena. Next fall, the program will move into the new Convocation Center on campus.

Series History: Wednesday's contest will mark the 40th meeting between UCF and Rollins. The Golden Knights own a 25-15 edge in the all-time series, including a 15-4 mark at home. Under head coach Kirk Speraw, UCF is 4-0 versus the Tars. The former Sunshine State Conference rivals met 16 times in the 1970s and then on 17 occasions in the 1980s. The squads played four times in the early 1990s, but have met only twice since 1994. In its 37-year basketball history, UCF has faced Rollins more than any other opponent.

Last Time Out Against Rollins: Behind 20 points from Troy Lindbeck, UCF recorded a 68-58 victory on Nov. 18, 2005 over visiting Rollins. All five of Lindbeck's made field goals were from 3-point range. UCF held a 45-32 edge on the glass. Justin Rose added 12 points and 10 boards in the winning effort. John Thinnes led the Tars with 20 points. He hit five 3-pointers. The contest was played in front of 3,051 fans, the seventh-largest crowd in UCF Arena history.

About Rollins: The Tars return 10 letterwinners and all five starters from a squad that went 24-8 last season. Rollins is currently ranked No. 8 in the national Division II poll. The team is led by three guards who all averaged over 10 points per contest in 2005-06: John Thinnes (12.4 ppg), Jonny Reibel (11.4 ppg, 5.2 apg) and Deon Troupe (10.8 ppg).

UCF-Rollins Connections: UCF head coach Kirk Speraw is 4-0 against Rollins. That mark includes a 72-57 victory on Nov. 30, 1993 - Speraw's first game as the Golden Knights' head coach.

At Largo High School, Mike O'Donnell frequently faced a pair of current Rollins players - Jordan Kolosey and Deon Troupe. Both Tars played at St. Petersburg High School.

Opening Up: UCF has claimed three-consecutive season openers and is 20-12 all-time to start a campaign. During the Kirk Speraw era, the Golden Knights are 8-5 in season openers. Speraw's mark includes four victories over Rollins.

Great Beginnings: The Golden Knights have won nine-straight contests in the month of November and are 17-2 in the month dating back to the 2001-02 season. UCF's last loss during the month was a 72-63 defeat at the College of Charleston on Nov. 25, 2003. Last season, the squad went 4-0 in November. Under head coach Kirk Speraw, the team is 27-16 in November.

In-State Success: Since the start of the 2001-02 campaign, UCF is 26-11 against in-state opponents. Last season, the squad went 5-2 against Florida programs. In 2006-07, UCF opens the year by facing six-straight in-state foes.

Home Cooking: Dating back to the start of the 2001-02 campaign, the Golden Knights are 53-15 in games played at UCF Arena. A year ago, UCF went 10-5 at home.

Home Again: The Golden Knights begin the season with six-consecutive games at UCF Arena. Last year, UCF opened the campaign with four-straight contests at home. This year's stretch marks the first time in program history that the Golden Knights have started a season with more than five-consecutive games at home. The last time that UCF had six-straight contests at home in a single season came in 1986-87. UCF was in its third campaign in Division I and competing as an independent.

Preseason Tune-Up: Although it was just an exhibition game, UCF's offense looked impressive against St. Leo in Orlando on Nov. 9 as the Golden Knights eased to a 102-54 victory. The contest was UCF's lone preseason game. Jermaine Taylor scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the first half for the hosts. He was 8-of-10 from the floor and 5-of-7 from 3-point range. UCF shot 57.1 percent overall and 50 percent from deep. All 12 Golden Knights who dressed for the game scored. UCF held a 39-20 advantage on the glass and forced 29 St. Leo turnovers.

Home Base: The Golden Knights will play 16 contests at home this year, the most since the squad had 16 during the 1999-00 campaign. In 2005-06, UCF had 15 home games.

Head Start: The Nov. 15 season opener is the earliest for the Golden Knights since the 1998-99 campaign. That season, UCF made its debut on Nov. 13 at home versus Rollins, claiming a 104-98 victory.

Winning with Threes: Last year, the Golden Knights shot 36.5 percent from 3-point range, the top mark in Conference USA. UCF averaged 7.1 treys per contest. Eleven of UCF's 14 victories came when the team connected on seven or more 3-pointers. UCF should again be strong from deep. Junior guard Mike O'Donnell (37.1 percent) and senior forward Josh Peppers (36.9 percent) both ranked in the top 10 in the league in 3-point field goal percentage in 2005-06. Junior guard Mike Battle, who missed all of last season with an injury, will give UCF another threat from deep.

Shooting for 1,000: Senior forward Josh Peppers needs just 66 points to become the 13th 1,000-point scorer in program history. The Memphis, Tenn. native enters the year with 934 career points. He is looking to become the first Golden Knight to eclipse the 1,000-point barrier since Paul Reed achieved the feat during the 2001-02 season.

Peppers from 3-Point Range: In only three years at UCF, senior forward Josh Peppers has connected on 127 3-pointers, good for eighth all-time. His 346 3-point field goal attempts rank seventh at the school.

Heading for 300: Head coach Kirk Speraw needs just nine victories to reach the 300-career win mark. He has 291 career victories. Speraw is in his 14th year at UCF and has won 209 games at the school. In his other stint as a head coach, Speraw recorded 82 wins from 1987-90 at Pensacola Junior College.

Senior Citizens: Forwards Lavell Payne and Josh Peppers are the only seniors on UCF's roster this year. The squad has seven juniors, three sophomores and three freshmen. In 2005-06, four seniors saw action for the Golden Knights. The last time the squad had fewer than three seniors on the roster was in 2000-01 when Inyo Cue and Mario Lovett were the lone fourth-year players on the Golden Knights.

Sunshine Staters: UCF's roster features nine players who attended high school in Florida. Last year, six Golden Knights on the 16-man roster were from Florida. The nine Floridians on the roster is the most for UCF since nine players from the Sunshine State competed during the 2000-01 campaign.

Local Talent Stays Home: The UCF roster also features four local players. Junior center Stanley Billings (Orlando), sophomore guards Drew Speraw (Oviedo) and Jermaine Taylor (Tavares) and freshman guard Taylor Young (Orlando) are all from the central Florida-area. Big Man on Campus: There will be a new big man on the UCF campus this year as junior center Stanley Billings has joined the Golden Knights. Billings is a 6-foot-11 transfer from Independence Community College in Kansas. He averaged 13.9 points, nine rebounds and 3.6 blocks per game last year. An Orlando native, he graduated from Oak Ridge High School, where he did not play basketball, in 1996. Following high school, he spent eight years in the Marines. He started playing competitive basketball while in the military.

Up Next: UCF returns to action on Saturday, Nov. 18, hosting local rival Stetson at 7:30 p.m. The Golden Knights have won nine straight against Stetson, including a 74-66 contest on Nov. 26, 2005. Josh Peppers scored 16 points and Mike O'Donnell added 14 in last year's meeting. In Orlando, UCF has a 10-7 edge in the all-time series. Head coach Kirk Speraw is 18-8 against the Hatters. Along with Jacksonville, Stetson is one of two Atlantic Sun Conference opponents that UCF will face in 2006-07.