UCF Holds Off Rice for C-USA Win


Jan. 20, 2007

Box Score | Notes

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Senior forward Josh Peppers (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven) led three Golden Knights in double-figures with 14 points as the UCF men's basketball team recorded its 12th-straight victory at home, posting a 72-67 Conference USA win over Rice on Saturday evening at the UCF Arena. The Golden Knights improved to 14-4 overall and 3-1 in C-USA play.

The hosts led by as many as 12 in the second half, but the Owls (9-8, 3-1) rallied and cut the lead to one point with 54 seconds to play after a pair of Morris Almond free throws. UCF answered back as junior guard Mike O'Donnell (Largo, Fla./Largo) drove inside and dished to senior forward Lavell Payne (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) for the slam dunk with just 22 seconds on the clock.

Almond missed two 3-pointers on Rice's next possession and junior guard Dave Noel (Boynton Beach, Fla./Boynton Beach) hit a pair of foul shots with five seconds remaining to seal the win.

"It was two teams scratching and clawing and fighting for each possession," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "I thought we did a lot of good and gutty things down the stretch. Our guys made plays when they had to make plays."

UCF has won three-consecutive contests. The game was played in front of 3,807 fans, the third-largest crowd in UCF Arena history.

Almond, who entered the contest as the nation's second-leading scorer at 28.1 points per game, finished with 20 points on 3-of-15 shooting from the field. He made 13-of-14 shots at the line as the Owls went 23-of-26 (88.5 percent) at the charity stripe.

O'Donnell finished with 11 points and five assists in 36 minutes. Noel made all six of his free-throw attempts as he recorded 10 points and matched a career-high with eight assists. Payne scored seven points and led UCF with six rebounds.

UCF shot 53.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from deep. The squad made 17-of-20 of its free-throw attempts, good for 85 percent.

The hosts led 35-32 at halftime after limiting the Owls to just 31.3 percent shooting in the opening stanza.

Rice shot 33.9 percent overall and 22.2 percent from 3-point range. Almond, who led the Owls with eight rebounds, was just 1-of-7 from deep. Greg Killings added 15 points in the loss. The Owls finished the game with a 37-26 edge on the glass. They grabbed 22 offensive boards.

UCF returns to action on Wednesday, Jan. 24 at Houston. The squad's next home contest is set for Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. versus 17th-ranked Memphis.

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