Golden Knights Start Two-Game Road Swing at Tulane

Feb. 13, 2007

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team begins a two-game road swing on Wednesday, facing Tulane for a Conference USA contest in New Orleans. Tip-off at Fogelman Arena is slated for 8 p.m. Eastern.

The Golden Knights, who are 18-6 overall and 7-3 in conference play, have won three-straight contests and are 4-1 in their last five games. Head coach Kirk Speraw's squad is currently tied for second in the league standings with Houston and Rice. UCF has already eclipsed its victory total from a year ago, when the squad went 14-15.

Tulane is 11-11 overall and 4-6 in C-USA action.

UCF-Tulane 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 Tulane will be meeting in New Orleans for the first time as Conference USA foes. UCF leads the all-time series, 2-1. Last year, the Golden Knights claimed a 72-51 victory over the Green Wave in Orlando on Feb. 11, 2006. Josh Peppers paced UCF with 11 points and Lavell Payne added nine points and a game-high six boards. The hosts finished with a 39-27 edge on the glass. UCF forced 22 Tulane turnovers. David Gomez paced the Green Wave with 13 points. The Golden Knights will be playing in New Orleans for the first time since 2002 when they claimed the University Hoops Classic title. UCF won three games at the event, including a 66-61 win over the host Green Wave to open the tournament. Ray Abellard paced UCF with 22 points and Marius Boyd had a game-high nine boards against Tulane.

About Tulane: The Green Wave dropped a 95-51 contest at No. 8 Memphis on Saturday, but have won two of three. Chris Moore led Tulane with 10 points against the Tigers. Tulane is 8-5 this year at home. David Gomez paces the squad in scoring at 13.8 points per game. He is shooting 53.9 percent from the floor. Donnie Stith is averaging 1.76 blocks as the team leads Conference USA in the category (6.55). The Green Wave are averaging 68.1 points, while allowing 67 an outing. They are second in the league in field-goal percentage defense (38.8).

UCF Last Time Out: Mike O'Donnell and Jermaine Taylor both scored 17 points as the host Golden Knights used a balanced offensive effort to ease to a 75-58 victory over Marshall on Saturday. Four Golden Knights finished with double-figures in scoring as Lavell Payne totaled 15 points and Josh Peppers added 14. UCF made seven 3-pointers and shot 56 percent from the floor in the first half. The hosts led 45-26 at intermission.

You Play to Win the Game: With its 18 victories, UCF has already eclipsed its win total from a year ago. In 2005-06, the Golden Knights went 14-15 overall. Through 24 contests last season, UCF had an 11-13 record.

New Kids on the Block: Since joining Conference USA with five other programs prior to last year, UCF has recorded 14 league victories, the second-highest total among the new members. UTEP has posted 16 C-USA wins during the span. Rice (13), Tulsa (11), Marshall (9) and SMU (6) follow UCF. With the move, the Golden Knights faced the biggest increase in competition among the new schools, having previously competed in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

Three's Company: UCF has won three-consecutive contests and has posted a +15 scoring margin during that span. The Golden Knights have held each of their last three opponents to below 60 points. Last season, UCF did not win more than two-consecutive league games. In 2006-07, the Golden Knights have won three-straight Conference USA contests on two occasions.

Peppers Gets Hot: Josh Peppers' offensive output is a big reason why the Golden Knights are 4-1 in their last five games. During the stretch, the senior forward has averaged 16 points and four boards. He is shooting 52.9 percent overall, 47.8 percent from 3-point range and 83.3 percent at the free-throw line in UCF's last five games. Peppers has been the Golden Knights' top offensive performer in Conference USA play. He is averaging 14.3 points against league foes and has had seven double-digit scoring games.

Peppers Garners C-USA Accolades: Josh Peppers earned Conference USA Player of the Week honors on Monday. He shared the award with Rice's Morris Almond. Peppers averaged 19 points in victories over East Carolina and Marshall. At East Carolina, he had 24 points on the strength of a 9-of-10 performance from the field. His .900 field-goal percentage was the best by a C-USA player this year and tied for fifth on the league's single-game register. Peppers became the first UCF player to garner C-USA weekly accolades.

Free Falling: In its last two contests, UCF has gone 31-of-34 (91.2 percent) at the free-throw line. Last year, the Golden Knights were less than solid at the line, shooting 64.3 percent. This season, a pair of Golden Knights are in Conference USA's top-10 as the squad leads the league, connecting on 72.8 percent of its attempts at the charity stripe. Dave Noel is fifth at 82.5 percent, followed by Josh Peppers at sixth (77.8).

Road Warrior: In UCF's eight games this year on the road, Jermaine Taylor is averaging 15.9 points. He has six double-digit scoring performances on the road and has scored 20 or more points three times away from Orlando.

Offensive Improvement: Last season, UCF scored more than 70 points in a contest only five times. In 2006-07, the Golden Knights have already scored at least 70 points 15 times. After averaging just 63.3 points per game last season, the Golden Knights are scoring 74.1 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 +9.1 scoring margin.

Points Taken: UCF's improved play on the offensive end has gotten much of the attention this season, but the Golden Knights have been strong on defense as well. UCF has held its last three opponents well below their scoring averages. Tulsa scored 53 points against the Golden Knights on Feb. 3, 19 points below its average. On Feb. 7, East Carolina mustered just 49 points. The Pirates entered the contest averaging 60.5 points. This past Saturday, Marshall scored 58 points, 10 fewer than its average. The Golden Knights are third in Conference USA in field-goal percentage defense (40.2) and fifth in 3-point field-goal percentage defense (33.1).

Points Add Up for Peppers: Josh Peppers is currently ninth on UCF's all-time scoring list with 1,256 points. Dan Faison, who played for the Golden Knights from 1982-85, is eighth on the scoring register with 1,283 points. 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.

Three the Easy Way: The Golden Knights are shooting 40 percent from 3-point range this year. The mark paces Conference USA and ranks 18th nationally. UCF has two of the most accurate shooters from deep in the conference. Mike O'Donnell is second at 45.2 percent, followed at third by Jermaine Taylor (44.4).

From Deep: UCF is 13-4 when making seven or more 3-pointers in 2006-07. The squad is averaging 7.9 triples per game, which ranks second among all Conference USA programs.

Triple Trouble: The Golden Knights have already connected on 190 3-pointers this season. That mark ranks 10th on the school's single-season register. If the season ended today, UCF's 3-point field-goal percentage (40) would rank second in program history.

At the Half: The Golden Knights are 15-1 when leading at halftime this season. UCF has led at intermission in seven of its nine Conference USA contests this year.

Taylor-Made: A year ago, Jermaine Taylor scored 130 points as a freshman, seeing time in all 29 of UCF's games. In 24 contests in 2006-07, the sophomore has totaled 340 points and leads UCF at 14.2 points per game. He has paced UCF in scoring 11 times. A year ago, the guard scored in double-figures just four times. In 2006-07, he has totaled double-digits in points in 18 of the Golden Knights' 24 games. He has made 56 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 50 percent of his field-goal attempts and is shooting 44.4 percent from behind-the-arc.

A Major Payne in C-USA Play: Since Conference USA play began in early January, Lavell Payne has excelled for the Golden Knights. In C-USA action, Payne is averaging 11.4 points and 5.7 boards while shooting 52.6 percent overall. In non-league play, the senior from Fort Lauderdale averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting at a 42.4 percent clip.

Payne Makes Gains at the Line: Lavell Payne ranks 10th in Conference USA, connecting on 74.3 percent of his attempts at the free-throw line. Payne's effort is impressive, considering he shot just 42.9 percent in 2005-06.

This Date in UCF History: In 2002, Ray Abellard made six 3-point field goals, tying his career best in UCF's 72-56 home win over Samford. Abellard's six treys were good for sixth on UCF's single-game register.

Up Next: UCF concludes its two-game road swing at Rice on Saturday. The Golden Knights are 2-0 against the Owls since both programs joined Conference USA prior to last season. UCF has a 2-1 edge in the all-time series. The squads met in Orlando on Jan. 20 and the hosts held on for a 72-67 victory. Josh Peppers paced UCF with 14 points. The Golden Knights limited Rice's Morris Almond, who entered the contest as the nation's second leading scorer at 28.1 points per game, to 20 points on 3-of-15 shooting from the floor. He went 13-of-14 at the foul line. Last season, the Golden Knights claimed a 77-64 victory over the Owls in Houston.