Golden Knights Seeking Fourth-Straight Win

Jan. 23, 2007

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will be seeking its fourth-consecutive victory when it faces host Houston for a Conference USA contest on Wednesday evening. Tip-off at Hofheinz Pavilion is slated for 8 p.m. Eastern.

The Golden Knights (14-4, 3-1 C-USA) won a pair of games at home last week. Houston enters the contest 7-9 overall and 2-2 in league play.

UCF-Houston will be broadcast 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 and statistics will be available at www.ucfathletics.com.

Series History: UCF and Houston met three times last year and the Cougars lead the all-time series, 2-1. UCF won the first series matchup, 66-56, in Houston on Jan. 14, 2006. The victory served as the program's first Conference USA win. Anthony Williams paced UCF with 25 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor. He added nine boards and five blocks in the win. Justin Rose totaled 11 points and 14 rebounds for the Golden Knights. Later in the season, Houston defeated UCF in Orlando and in the second round of the C-USA Championship in Memphis, Tenn. In three games against the Cougars, Josh Peppers is averaging 12.7 points.

About Houston: The Cougars are the most prolific 3-point shooting team in Conference USA, hitting 11.25 treys per game. They hit 12 triples in a 69-67 win at Tulsa on Saturday. Dion Dowell led Houston with 21 points and Robert McKiver added 20. McKiver is third in C-USA, averaging 19.1 points per game. He is making 3.94 3-pointers an outing. Oliver Lafayette is averaging 15.4 points and Dowell is chipping in with 14.7 points a contest. Houston is averaging 77 points, but allowing a league-worst 75.2. The Cougars pace C-USA in turnover margin (+5.31).

UCF Last Time Out: UCF claimed its 12th-straight win at home with a 72-67 victory over Rice on Saturday. Josh Peppers paced the Golden Knights with 14 points. UCF limited the Owls' Morris Almond, who entered the contest second nationally with 28.1 points per game, to 20 points on just 3-of-15 shooting from the field. Almond went 13-of-14 at the line. UCF shot 53.5 percent overall and 50 percent from deep. The hosts limited Rice to just 33.9 percent shooting for the game.

UCF-Houston Connections: The contest with the Cougars will serve as a homecoming for UCF's Chip Cartwright. The junior guard, who is in his first year with the Golden Knights after transferring from Angelina College, is a Houston native. Cartwright attended Phillis Wheatley High School.

Lone Star State of Mind: Last season, the Golden Knights went 2-1 in the state of Texas, beating both Houston and Rice. Prior to last year, UCF had not played a game in the Lone Star State since the 1991-92 campaign. In 2006-07, the Golden Knights will play at Houston, Rice and UTEP.

Texas Four-Step: UCF's last two victories have come against programs from Texas. The Golden Knights recorded a 64-56 win over visiting SMU on Wednesday and then defeated Rice, 72-67, in Orlando on Saturday. When the team faces Houston, it will mark the third contest of four-straight against Lone Star State foes for the Golden Knights. UCF concludes the stretch at UTEP on Saturday.

Winning Mentality: Eighteen games into the season, UCF has already equaled its victory total from last year. In 2005-06, the Golden Knights went 14-15 overall.

Three-Straight League Wins: UCF has won three-consecutive games, all in Conference USA play. In 2005-06, the Golden Knights won two-straight league games on two occasions, but never won three in a row.

Great Start: UCF is off to its best start since the 2003-04 season. That year, Kirk Speraw's team began the campaign 16-2. UCF finished the year 25-6 and participated in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Atlantic Sun Championship title.

No Half Stepping: The Golden Knights are 12-0 when leading at halftime this season. UCF has led at intermission in three-straight contests.

Getting Offensive: Last season, UCF scored more than 70 points in a contest only five times. In 2006-07, the Golden Knights have already eclipsed the 70-point mark 13 times in 18 games. After averaging just 63.3 points per game last season, the Golden Knights are scoring 76.2 points per contest this year. The squad eclipsed the 80-point mark only once a year ago, but has already scored more than 80 points in a game on seven occasions this season. UCF owns a +10.8 scoring margin.

On Target: The Golden Knights lead Conference USA and rank 16th nationally, shooting 49.3 percent from the floor. Jermaine Taylor is seventh in the conference and 64th in the country at 54 percent and Mike O'Donnell is 11th in the league at 47.8 percent. UCF has shot 50 percent or better from the floor on nine occasions this season. The Golden Knights are 9-0 in those contests.

From Deep: UCF has the two most accurate 3-point shooters in Conference USA. Mike O'Donnell leads the league, shooting 48.3 percent from deep. He is followed by Jermaine Taylor (47.8). The Golden Knights pace Conference USA and are 14th in the nation, hitting 41.2 percent of their attempts from behind-the-arc.

The Sixth Sense: Jermaine Taylor leads UCF in scoring and is one of the top sixth men in the nation this season. A candidate for Conference USA's Sixth Man of the Year award, Taylor ranks second nationally in scoring among all reserves at 14.8 points per game. During his career at UCF, Taylor has never started a game. UMBC's Brian Hodges is the top scoring reserve in the country, averaging 16.4 points a contest.

New and Improved: A year ago, Jermaine Taylor scored 130 points as a freshman, seeing time in all 29 of UCF's games. In 18 contests in 2006-07, the sophomore has totaled 266 points and leads UCF at 14.8 points per game. He has paced UCF in scoring nine times. 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 13 of the Golden Knights' 18 games. He has made 44 triples this season after canning 17 a year ago. Last season, Taylor shot 39.5 percent overall and 30.4 percent from deep. He is currently hitting 54 percent of his field-goal attempts and is shooting 47.8 percent from behind-the-arc.

Road Warriors: When the Golden Knights meet Houston, the team will be playing its fifth road game of the month. UCF began January with four-straight away games. The squad spent 13 of the first 14 days of January on the road or traveling. The Golden Knights have six road games in the January, the most in a single-month for the program since the 1998-99 season.

Noel Solid in C-USA Play: Dave Noel has excelled in UCF's four Conference USA games in 2006-07. He is shooting 63.2 percent overall in league play, good for second in the conference. Noel is averaging 12.3 points, 5.5 boards, 4.3 assists and 1.5 steals against C-USA opponents. As the backup point guard last year, Noel averaged just 2.8 points in 11.8 minutes an outing. He is now starting at shooting guard and showing his talents. The junior, who sat out the 2004-05 season after transferring from UNC-Wilmington, is playing 27.7 minutes per contest this season, averaging 9.3 points and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 55.4 percent from the floor. Against SMU on Saturday, he went 6-for-6 at the free-throw line on his way to 10 points. He also matched a career-high with eight assists in the win. In league contests, Noel is shooting 85.7 percent at the free-throw line.

Windex Man: In limited minutes this season, freshman Tony Davis has proved that he can rebound. The forward is second on the squad, averaging 4.9 rebounds in 15.1 minutes per game. A candidate for the All-C-USA Freshman Team, he was the Florida Class 6A Player of the Year at Riverview High School in Sarasota.

Peppers from 3-Point Range: In his career at UCF, senior forward Josh Peppers has connected on 156 3-pointers, good for fifth all-time. His 433 3-point field goal attempts rank fifth at the school.

The Veteran: Josh Peppers has appeared in 110 games while at UCF, good for 10th in program history. The senior forward has played in a pair of NCAA Tournament games at UCF and is on pace to break the school's all-time games played mark of 122.

Peppers Chasing More History: Josh Peppers is also approaching the top-10 at UCF in two categories. He needs 48 points to crack the program's top-10 scoring list. The senior from Memphis, Tenn. also needs four free throws to enter the top-10 in that category. Peppers is 10th in school history with 290 free-throw attempts.

The Starting Lineup: In 2005-06, Kirk Speraw used nine different starting lineups. Eight different Golden Knights started during the season. This year, Mike O'Donnell, Dave Noel, Josh Peppers, Lavell Payne and Kenrick Zondervan have started every contest.

No Turnover: Mike O'Donnell has helped UCF take good care of the ball this season. The junior point guard is second in Conference USA with a 2.50 assist/turnover ratio. Teammate Dave Noel ranks fourth at 1.94. The pair has combined for 131 assists and just 59 turnovers in 2006-07.

This Date in UCF History: In 1978, Cleveland Jackson recorded a career-high 12 assists in UCF's 78-75 home Sunshine State Conference win against Florida Southern.

Up Next: UCF remains in Texas to face UTEP on Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern. The contest will be televised live nationally on CSTV. The all-time series is tied, 1-1. Last year, UCF claimed a 66-55 win over the Miners in Orlando on March 4, 2006 in both team's regular-season finales. Mike O'Donnell was 6-of-6 from 3-point range and had 23 points in the win. The Golden Knights shot 52.9 percent from deep and had a 31-26 edge on the glass. Jason Williams led UTEP with 26 points. The teams will be meeting in El Paso for the first time since Dec. 15, 1978 when UTEP claimed a 92-64 victory. The Golden Knights were competing at the Division II level at the time. Bo Clark, UCF's all-time leading scorer, paced the Golden Knights with 27 points against the Miners.