Men's Basketball to Host UCF Holiday Classic

Dec. 27, 2006

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Following an impressive performance last week at the San Juan Shootout, the UCF men's basketball team welcomes James Madison, New Jersey Tech and Texas-Pan Am to Orlando for the third annual UCF Holiday Classic. The Golden Knights (8-2) open the two-day tournament at the UCF Arena on Friday at 7:30 p.m. versus New Jersey Tech.

James Madison and Texas-Pan Am play on Friday at 5 p.m. On Saturday, the consolation game is set for 5 p.m., followed by the championship at 7:30 p.m.

Last week, UCF went 2-1 to finish third at the eight-team San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico. The team opened the event with an impressive 67-61 victory over Utah. UCF currently leads Conference USA, shooting 49.6 percent from the field.

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

Both of UCF's contests at the tournament 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 live from courtside. Live audio for UCF's games and statistics from all tournament contests will be available at www.ucfathletics.com.

Series History: UCF has never faced New Jersey Tech. The Golden Knights have not played a squad from the Garden State since Feb. 6, 1988 when they topped Monmouth, 74-71, at home. That year, the team also posted a 67-63 win in Orlando over another New Jersey school, St. Peter's.

About NJIT: The Highlanders (2-9) are in their first year at the Division I level. New Jersey Tech opened the campaign with victories over Manhattan and Rider, but have dropped nine-straight contests. The squad has not played since falling 68-50 at St. John's on Dec. 21. The Highlanders trailed 24-20 at halftime, but the Red Storm shot 56 percent overall after intermission. New Jersey Tech is averaging 53.8 points per game and allowing 66.5. From the floor, the team is shooting 39.1 percent and is committing 19.5 turnovers per game. Clayton Barker is averaging a team-high 12.1 points per game. Nesho Milosevic paces the squad on the boards (7.3 rpg).

Up Next for UCF: The Golden Knights will meet either James Madison or Texas-Pan Am on Saturday. UCF has never faced James Madison and is 4-0 against Texas-Pan Am, including a 2-0 mark in Orlando. From 1990-92, the programs were league foes, first in the American South and then in the Sun Belt. The Broncs are led by former UCF associate head coach Tom Schuberth. Schuberth, who served as an assistant with the Golden Knights from 2002-06, is in his first season at Texas-Pan Am. While in Orlando, he helped UCF to a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.

About James Madison: The Dukes (2-7) have lost five-consecutive games, most recently a 78-58 contest at home to Youngstown State on Dec. 19. James Madison is 0-4 away from home in 2006-07. Juwann James is the squad's top scorer at 15 points per game.

About Texas-Pan Am: Under Schuberth, the Broncs (7-5) have already surpassed their six-win total from a year ago. Texas-Pan Am recorded its second-straight win on Dec. 20, defeating visiting Texas-San Antonio, 69-64. Averaging 17 points per game, Brian Burrell is the team's top offensive player.

Heading for 300: Head coach Kirk Speraw needs just one victory to reach the 300-career win mark. He has 299 career victories. Speraw is in his 14th year at UCF and has won 217 games at the school. In his other stint as a head coach, Speraw recorded 82 wins from 1987-90 at Pensacola Junior College.

UCF Last Time Out: Playing in the third-place game at the San Juan Shootout, UCF posted a 73-66 victory over Tennessee Tech on Dec. 21. The Golden Eagles led 30-29 at halftime, but UCF opened the second half on a 15-6 run. Dave Noel scored a career-high 16 points to go with four assists in the win. The Golden Knights shot 51 percent overall and had a 37-28 advantage on the boards.

San Juan Success: UCF's third-place finish at the eight-team San Juan Shootout was impressive. The squad went 2-1 at the tournament and opened the event with a 67-61 victory over Utah. UCF's only loss was to tournament champion Appalachian State in the semifinals. The Golden Knights finished ahead of programs from some of the top conferences in the nation, including Northwestern (Big Ten), Virginia (Atlantic Coast) and Utah (Mountain West). All-time, UCF is 7-2 in games outside of the continental United States. Under Kirk Speraw, the program has also competed in Alaska and Hawaii.

O'Donnell Named to All-Tourney Team: After helping UCF to a third-place finish at the event, Mike O'Donnell was named to the San Juan Shootout All-Tournament Team. He averaged 11.7 points in three contests at the eight-team event. In the squad's 73-66 victory over Tennessee Tech in the third-place game, the Largo native connected on three 3-pointers and finished with 15 points. O'Donnell shot 63.2 percent from the floor in three tournament contests.

Impressive Victory: With its victory over Utah on Dec. 19 at the San Juan Shootout, UCF again proved to be the spoiler against a program with a proud history. The Utes have played in 12 NCAA Tournaments since 1991 and participated in the 1998 Final Four. A year ago, the Golden Knights topped UTEP, a program that has appeared in 16 NCAA Tournaments and won the national title in 1966. UCF also defeated Houston, a school that has participated in 18 NCAA Tournaments and has made four trips to the Final Four.

Super Sophomore: Averaging 25.6 minutes off of the bench in 2006-07, Jermaine Taylor is UCF's leading scorer at 16.1 points per game, good for sixth in Conference USA. In 29 contests last year as a freshman, he scored 130 total points, averaging 4.5 per game. The guard has shown great improvement in 2006-07 and has paced UCF in scoring six times this season. A year ago as a freshman, the guard scored in double-figures just four times. In 2006-07, he has totaled double-digits in points in nine of the Golden Knights' 10 games. The Tavares native is shooting 51.2 percent from deep and has connected on 27 treys. In 2005-06, he totaled just 17 3-pointers.

Solid Start to the Season: UCF began the campaign 6-0 for the first time since moving to the Division I level prior to the 1984-85 season. As a result of their solid start, the Golden Knights received three votes in the Dec. 11 Associated Press Top 25 poll. It marked the first time since the end of the 2003-04 season that UCF received votes in one of the two national polls.

Three the Easy Way: The Golden Knights are shooting 41.6 percent from 3-point range, a mark that ranks second in Conference USA. UCF is 6-2 when making seven or more treys and is averaging 8.2 triples per contest. Two players - Mike O'Donnell (51.2) and Jermaine Taylor (50.9) - are shooting over 50 percent from behind-the-arc. They rank four and fifth, respectively, in Conference USA.

Offensive Output: UCF has excelled offensively in 2006-07, averaging 77.1 points per contest. Last season, UCF eclipsed the 80-point mark only once and averaged just 63.3 points each game. This year, the team has already scored more than 80 points five times. The Golden Knights boast a +14.5 scoring margin in 2006-07.

Consistency the Key Early On: Last season, UCF started the year 6-4 using four different starting lineups. Through 10 contests in 2006-07, head coach Kirk Speraw has used the same starting lineup in every game: Mike O'Donnell and Dave Noel in the backcourt and Josh Peppers, Lavell Payne and Kenrick Zondervan up front.

Noel Enjoying the Holiday Season: Dave Noel is enjoying December. The shooting guard has posted double-digits in scoring in three of UCF's last four games. Noel scored a career-high 16 points in the San Juan Shootout third-place game against Tennessee Tech on Dec. 21. He is averaging nine points, 3.5 boards, 2.6 assists and a team-high 1.4 rebounds in a starting role.

Improvement at the Line: UCF ranks third in Conference USA, shooting 71 percent from the charity stripe. Josh Peppers is fifth in the league (80.8 percent) and Dave Noel is eighth (77.4) at the line. In 2005-06, the Golden Knights shot 64.3 percent at the free-throw line.

Big Man on Campus: Stanley Billings is among the Conference USA leaders, averaging 1.3 blocks per game. He has 13 on the year. An Orlando native, Billings 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. According to research by the UCF Athletics Communications Office, Billings is the oldest Division I player in the nation.

This Date in UCF History: A year ago, the Golden Knights opened the UCF Holiday Classic with a 69-57 victory over North Florida. Justin Rose led UCF with 17 points. He was 4-of-5 from 3-point range.

Up Next: After finishing the UCF Holiday Classic on Saturday, UCF will head west for a pair of games. The Golden Knights face Colorado in Boulder on Jan. 3. The squads have never met and UCF will be playing in Colorado for the first time in program history. All-time, UCF has played only one Big 12 team, dropping a 71-59 contest at Kansas State on Jan. 6, 2003. Following their game with the Buffaloes, the Golden Knights will play at South Dakota State on Jan. 6. The game with the Jackrabbits will serve as the team's final non-league tilt of the season.