UCF Opens C-USA Play at UAB

Jan. 9, 2007

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team opens its second season of Conference USA play on the road, facing UAB in Birmingham on Wednesday. Tip-off at Bartow Arena is set for 9 p.m. Eastern.

The Golden Knights, who are 11-3 on the year, will be looking for their second-straight road win. UCF is one of the top shooting teams in the country and is shooting 43.4 percent from 3-point range, good for fifth nationally.

UAB is 8-7 overall and 0-1 in league action. The Blazers are unbeaten (5-0) at home in 2006-07.

The contest will be televised live regionally on Comcast Sports South. Matt Stewart will handle the play-by-play duties and former College of Charleston coach Tom Herrion will provide color commentary.

UAB-UCF 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 UAB met for the first time last season and the Blazers recorded a 75-68 victory over the Golden Knights in Orlando on Feb. 4. UAB shot 54 percent overall, compared to 39.6 percent for the hosts. Josh Peppers had a game-high 19 points in the loss and Mike O'Donnell added 17 points and eight assists. O'Donnell hit five 3-pointers as the Golden Knights shot 43.3 percent from deep. Brandon Tobias led the Blazers with 14 points and Derrick Broom added 13. UCF has won four-straight games in the state of Alabama, posting victories over Troy (three) and Jacksonville State. The program has not played in the state since the 2004-05 season.

About UAB: The Blazers, who have dropped two-straight, opened Conference USA play with a 76-63 loss at UTEP on Saturday. Paul Delaney III led the Blazers with 17 points. UAB shot just 38.6 percent overall and 20.8 percent from 3-point range. On the season, Delaney III is averaging a team-high 17.6 points in 37.9 minutes of action. The Blazers are 5-0 at home in 2006-07.

UCF Last Time Out: Jermaine Taylor matched a career-high with 26 points and Lavell Payne had his first career double-double with 13 points and 12 boards in a 72-61 UCF win at South Dakota State on Saturday. Taylor was 9-of-14 from the floor and 6-of-10 from deep. Mike O'Donnell scored 12 of his 14 points after halftime for the Golden Knights. UCF shot 47.4 percent overall and 4.17 percent from 3-point range. Golden Knights in League Openers: At the Division I level, UCF is 7-8 all-time in league openers. Under Kirk Speraw, the Golden Knights are 7-6 in conference openers.

Points No Longer at a Premium: After averaging just 63.3 points per game last year, the Golden Knights are scoring 78.1 points a contest in 2006-07. The squad eclipsed the 80-point mark only once a year ago, but have already scored more than 80 points in a game on seven occasions this season. UCF owns a +13.2 scoring margin.

Triple Threat: UCF is among the nation's leaders in 3-point shooting, connecting on 43.4 percent of its attempts from deep. That mark ranks fifth in the country. The Golden Knights are making 8.9 treys a contest, good for 24th nationally. Jermaine Taylor leads Conference USA and is sixth nationally in 3-point field goal percentage (52.7). A year ago, he shot just 30.4 percent from behind-the-arc. Mike O'Donnell ranks third in C-USA, shooting 50 percent from deep.

Straight Shooters: The Golden Knights are shooting 43.4 percent from the field on the year, which leads Conference USA and ranks 21st nationally. Two UCF starters are shooting better than 50 percent overall. Shooting 57.6 percent from the floor, Jermaine Taylor is fifth in the league and 41st in the NCAA rankings in the category.

Super Sophomore: Averaging 25 minutes off of the bench in 2006-07, Jermaine Taylor is UCF's leading scorer at 16.2 points per game, good for sixth in Conference USA. He has nearly doubled his scoring total from 2005-06, when he scored 130 points as a freshman, averaging 4.5 per game. This year, Taylor has 227 points and has paced UCF in scoring eight 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 12 of the Golden Knights' 14 games. He has made 39 triples this year after canning 17 a year ago.

Taylor Gets Back on Track: Jermaine Taylor started the season by recording double-digits in scoring in each of UCF's first nine games. He then totaled just eight points in the team's next two contests. Since the two tough games, Taylor has been nearly unstoppable offensively. In the Golden Knights' last three outings, he is averaging 21.7 points while shooting 62.9 percent overall. The sophomore has connected on 12-of-20 (60 percent) 3-point field-goal attempts.

Road Warrior: The Golden Knights have played just three road games this season, travelling to Minnesota, Colorado and South Dakota State. Jermaine Taylor has enjoyed his surroundings on the road, averaging 23.3 points and four rebounds while shooting 56.8 from the floor and 53.8 percent from deep in hostile territory.

Familiar Faces: Through UCF's first 14 games a year ago, Kirk Speraw used four different starting lineups. Seven different Golden Knights started during the span as the team began the year 7-7. This season, Mike O'Donnell, Dave Noel, Josh Peppers, Lavell Payne and Kenrick Zondervan have started every contest.

Focal Point: Mike O'Donnell has been outstanding offensively in UCF's last seven games as he has finished with double-figures in points in each contest. During the span, the junior point guard is averaging 13.9 points and 3.4 rebounds. He is averaging 4.1 assists and has committed just nine turnovers. O'Donnell has shot 52.4 percent from the field and is 52.6 percent from deep, making 20-of-38 3-point attempts.

Board Games: Playing 16 minutes per game off of the bench, freshman forward Tony Davis paces UCF on the glass, averaging 5.5 rebounds, the 16th-best mark in Conference USA. He is one of only three rookies listed in the league's top-20 in rebounding and ranks 10th in C-USA in defensive rebounds per contest (3.93). Davis has led UCF in rebounds nine times this year and totaled 10 boards in the squad's outing on Dec. 30 against Texas-Pan Am. 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.

Reserves Make a Difference: Thanks to Jermaine Taylor, UCF's reserves are averaging 33 points per contest. The Golden Knights' bench has outscored the opponent's reserves on 11 occasions in 2006-07.

Caution Pays Off: Mike O'Donnell has been cautious with the ball this year. The junior is tied for first in Conference USA with a 2.75 assist/turnover ratio. He is averaging 3.9 assists per game, good for eighth in the league. Teammate Dave Noel has a 1.79 assist/turnover ratio, the 10th-best mark in C-USA.

Peppers Gets Hot: An all-conference candidate, Josh Peppers struggled putting the ball in the basket early in the season, scoring under 13 points in each of UCF's first four games. The senior has started to heat up offensively. Peppers is averaging 16.3 points and 4.7 rebounds and is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range over the last four contests.

Second Time Around: As the backup point guard last year, Dave Noel averaged just 2.8 points in 11.8 minutes an outing. Noel 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 26.3 minutes per contest this season, averaging 8.5 points and 3.5 boards while shooting 53.4 percent from the floor.

Peppers Joins the Club: Senior forward Josh Peppers scored 12 points in the win over Florida Atlantic on Dec. 9 to become just the 13th 1,000-point scorer in program history. The Memphis, Tenn. native has scored 1,114 points at UCF. He became 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 his career at UCF, senior forward Josh Peppers has connected on 152 3-pointers, good for sixth all-time. His 416 3-point field goal attempts rank sixth at the school.

Peppers Chasing More History: Josh Peppers is also approaching the top-10 at UCF in four categories. He needs 104 points to crack the program's top-10 scoring list. The senior from Memphis, Tenn. also needs 18 free throws, 10 free-throw attempts and four games played to enter the top-10 in those categories.

Big Man on Campus: Stanley Billings is among the Conference USA leaders, averaging 1.2 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.

UCF Sports Today: Fans can learn more about the UCF program each Friday when Sun Sports airs "UCF Sports Today" with Kirk Speraw. The program airs at 5:30 p.m. each week and has feature stories, game highlights and analysis from Speraw and host Marc Daniels.

This Date in UCF History: Playing an Atlantic Sun game at Jacksonville State, Jason Thornton drained eight 3-pointers and finished with 28 points, but the Gamecocks defeated UCF in overtime, 90-83 in 2000. Thornton and D'Quarius Stewart combined for 56 of the Golden Knights' 83 points.

Up Next: UCF will play the last game of its four-game road stretch to start January on Saturday at Marshall. The Thundering Herd have a 2-0 edge in the all-time series, winning both Conference USA matchups last year. On March 1, 2006 in Huntington, Marshall posted a 73-61 win over the Golden Knights. UCF shot just 33.8 percent (24-of-71) from the field for the game.