Golden Knights to Meet Rice for Pivotal C-USA Contest

Feb. 16, 2007

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HOUSTON (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team concludes a two-game Conference USA road swing on Saturday, facing Rice at Autry Court at 8 p.m. Eastern. The Golden Knights (18-7, 7-4 C-USA) are tied with Rice (13-11, 7-4) for third in the league standings.

UCF is 4-2 in its last six contests. The Golden Knights have already eclipsed their win total from a year ago, when they posted 14 victories.

The game 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: 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. Justin Rose led UCF with 22 points and Peppers totaled 21 points. Mike O'Donnell hit four treys and finished with 13 points and five assists. Since joining C-USA, UCF is 2-1 in games played in Houston, defeating both Houston and Rice.

About Rice: The Owls have won three of four contests, losing 84-73 at UAB on Wednesday. The Blazers shot 54.7 percent from the floor. Morris Almond paced Rice with 28 points. Almond is third nationally, averaging 27.8 points per game. He is shooting 45.7 percent from 3-point range. Almond leads Rice on the glass with 6.4 boards per game. Lorenzo Williams is dishing out 4.8 assists per contest. This year, Rice is 9-3 at home.

UCF Last Time Out: A game-high 23 points from Lavell Payne was not enough as Tulane used a strong second-half performance to post an 86-80 win over UCF in New Orleans on Wednesday. The Golden Knights led 40-32 at halftime, but the Green Wave outscored UCF, 54-40, after intermission. The hosts shot 69 percent overall in the second half. Josh Peppers added 21 points for UCF.

UCF-Rice Connections: The contest against Rice will serve as a homecoming for Houston native Chip Cartwright. The junior guard, who played at Angelina College last year, attended Phillis Wheatley High School, where he was a two-time all-district pick. Cartwright played seven minutes and had two points when UCF played at Houston in January.

As a sophomore at the University of Mobile in 2004-05, Jacob Loucks played against Rice at Autry Court. Loucks played seven minutes and had three rebounds as Rice picked up a 77-56 victory in its season opener on Nov. 20, 2004.

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 25 contests last season, UCF had an 12-13 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.

On the Rebound: UCF is 6-0 in 2006-07 following a loss. Five of those victories have come away from Orlando.

Saturday Success: The Golden Knights are perfect on Saturday this year. The squad is 9-0 on Saturday, including a 3-0 mark on the road.

Back in Texas: UCF will be playing in the Lone Star State for the third time this season, having already made separate trips to Houston and Rice in 2006-07. A year ago, the Golden Knights visited Houston, Rice and SMU. Prior to its first campaign in Conference USA a year ago, UCF had not played in Texas since the 1991-92 season when it faced host Texas-Pan Am in a Sun Belt Conference contest.

Peppers Gets Hot: Josh Peppers' offensive output is a big reason why the Golden Knights are 4-2 in their last six games. During the stretch, the senior forward has averaged 17.6 points. He is shooting 55.4 percent overall, and 84.2 percent at the free-throw line in UCF's last six games. Peppers has been the Golden Knights' top offensive performer in Conference USA play. He is averaging 14.9 points against league foes and has had eight 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 three games, UCF has gone 46-of-53 (86.8 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 73 percent of its attempts at the charity stripe. Dave Noel is fourth at 83.3 percent and Josh Peppers is eighth (77.9 percent).

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 16 times. After averaging just 63.3 points per game last season, the Golden Knights are scoring 74.3 points per contest this year. The squad eclipsed the 80-point mark only once a year ago, but has already scored at least 80 points in a game on eight occasions this season. UCF owns a +9.1 scoring margin.

Points Add Up for Peppers: Josh Peppers is currently ninth on UCF's all-time scoring list with 1,277 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.

Target Practice: UCF leads Conference USA, shooting 48 percent from the field. The team ranks 34th nationally. Jermaine Taylor is 10th in the league at 50 percent. Lavell Payne is 12th in C-USA (49.1 percent). UCF has shot 50 percent or better from the field 10 times this year. The Golden Knights are 9-1 in those contests.

House of Payne: Lavell Payne has been a force inside for the Golden Knights since Conference USA play began in early January. In league contests, Payne is averaging 12.5 points and 5.5 boards while shooting 55.7 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.

Happy Away from Home: In UCF's six non-league road contests, Josh Peppers is averaging 16.8 points. In all games this season, he is averaging 15.2 points away from home, compared to 13.2 in Orlando.

Payne Makes Gains at the Line: Lavell Payne ranks 13th in Conference USA, connecting on 74.1 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 2005, Josh Peppers led UCF with 22 points in its 79-65 home victory over Mercer. Gary Johnson contributed with 14 points and nine assists in the win.

Up Next: On Wednesday, UCF hosts Southern Miss in Orlando for the first time. The squads met last year for the first time and the Golden Eagles rallied for a 59-51 victory in Hattiesburg on Feb. 8. UCF led 25-21 at halftime, but the hosts outscored the Golden Knights, 38-26, after intermission. The Golden Knights committed 16 turnovers for the game, compared to only five for Southern Miss. Mike O'Donnell shot 7-of-16 from the field on his way to a game-high 19 points in 38 minutes of action. Anthony Williams recorded a double-double with 14 points and 10 boards. Mildon Ambres and Travis Hall both totaled 11 points for the Golden Eagles.