Peppers Lifts Golden Knights Past Utah in San Juan


Dec. 19, 2006

Box Score | Notes

GUAYNABO, Puerto Rico (www.ucfathletics.com) - Senior forward Josh Peppers (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven) scored a career-high 26 points to lift the UCF men's basketball team to a 67-61 victory over Utah on Tuesday afternoon at Morales Coliseum in the opening round of the San Juan Shootout. The Golden Knights (7-1) never trailed during the game.

UCF will face Appalachian State at 4 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

Peppers connected on four 3-pointers for the game and scored 19 points in the second half. He shot 9-of-14 from the field. UCF shot 55 percent from the field and 52.4 percent from deep. The Utes fall to 4-6 with the loss.

"This was a physical game, probably as physical of a game that we've had in a long time," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "Our guys played very well and gave a great effort for all 40 minutes. Utah is a very well-coached team and this is a big win because they have so much size."

The Golden Knights led 28-15 at halftime, but Utah fought back, getting within three points on three occasions in the second half. After a 3-pointer by Shaun Green with 1:11 remaining, Utah trailed by only four. Peppers responded on the ensuing possession, draining a triple form the corner as the shot clock expired to put the game away.

"Josh came out much more focused today," said Speraw. "Hopefully this is a building block for him against these kinds of teams. He shot the ball very well and that is what we expect from a senior."

UCF outscored the Utes 23-10 to start the game. Utah connected on just one field goal in the opening 10 minutes of the contest. Peppers started the game with a personal 5-0 run.

The Golden Knights limited Utah to just 6-of-25 (25 percent) shooting in the first half. Sophomore guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla./Tavares) drained a trey with three seconds left in the half to give UCF a 13-point lead at intermission.

Taylor finished with double-digits in scoring for the eighth-straight game, totaling 11 points off of the bench. Junior guard Dave Noel (Boynton Beach, Fla./Boynton Beach) also had 11 points. In 34 minutes of action, junior guard Mike O'Donnell (Largo, Fla./Largo) recorded 10 points and four assists with no turnovers.

After scoring just four points in the opening half, Utah center Luke Nevill had 16 points in the second half, keying the Utes' rally. In addition to 20 points, Nevill grabbed eight boards.

At the start of the second half, UCF's advantage grew to 14 points after O'Donnell drained one of his three triples.

Utah shot 41.2 percent from the floor for the game and held a 32-19 edge on the glass. In the loss, Johnnie Bryant scored 15 points and had eight rebounds.

The Golden Knights were playing outside of the continental United States for the third time overall. All three of their regular-season trips outside of the country have come under Speraw with the last occurring during the 2004-05 campaign when the squad won the BP Top of the World Classic in Alaska.

Wednesday's game will be aired live on the UCF ISP Sports Network and its flagship station, WQTM 740 THEAM AM in Orlando.

For the latest news and information on the Golden Knights, tickets or apparel, log on to www.ucfathletics.com - the official site for UCF athletics.