UCF Hosts Southern Miss for C-USA Clash

Feb. 20, 2007

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team, currently tied for second in Conference USA, will be seeking more home success when it hosts Southern Miss for a key league contest on Wednesday. Tip-off at the UCF Arena is set for 8 p.m.

UCF is 19-7 overall and 8-4 in C-USA action. The team is aiming for a top-four finish in the league, which would give UCF a bye for the first round of the C-USA Championship in Memphis. The Golden Knights have won two-straight at home and are 12-1 in Orlando this season.

Southern Miss (17-8, 7-5 C-USA) has claimed three-consecutive victories.

Tickets for the UCF-Southern Miss contest are available by visiting www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 407-839-3900. All UCF students are admitted free with a valid school ID. All children will receive a free general admission ticket with a paid adult ticket for Wednesday's game.

The contest will be televised live nationally on CSTV. Carter Blackburn will handle the play-by-play duties and Pete Gillen will provide color commentary.

UCF-Southern Miss will be aired 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 Southern Miss met last year for the first time and the Golden Eagles rallied for a 59-51 victory in Hattiesburg on Feb. 8, 2006. 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. The schools have never met in Orlando.

About Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles have won three-straight contests, including a 74-69 win over visiting Houston on Monday. Southern Miss shot 47.9 percent overall and held the Cougars to just 4-of-29 (13.8 percent) shooting from 3-point range. Jeremy Wise and Courtney Beasley both scored 22 points in the win. The Golden Eagles rank second in Conference USA, holding opponents to just 61.7 points an outing. Wise is fourth in the league in scoring (17).

UCF Last Time Out: Josh Peppers scored a game-high 18 points and UCF connected on 17 second-half free throws as the Golden Knights posted a 74-63 win at Rice on Saturday. The Golden Knights limited Rice's Morris Almond to only 13 points, including just two after intermission. Almond entered the contest third nationally at 27.8 points per game. He was held in check by UCF's Dave Noel, who finished with 16 points and an 11-of-12 performance at the free-throw line. The Golden Knights finished with a 37-22 advantage on the glass.

You Play to Win the Game: With its 19 victories, UCF has already eclipsed its win total from a year ago. In 2005-06, the Golden Knights went 14-15 overall. UCF has also surpassed its league-win total from last season, when the squad went 7-7 in its first year in Conference USA.

New Kids on the Block: Since joining Conference USA with five other programs prior to last year, UCF has recorded 15 league victories, the second-highest total among the new members. UTEP has posted 16 C-USA wins during the span. Rice (13), Tulsa (12), Marshall (9) and SMU (7) 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.

Going for 20: UCF will be seeking its 20th win of the season when it hosts Southern Miss. The Golden Knights will be aiming for their fourth 20-victory campaign in five years.

National Success: Dating back to the start of the 2002-03 campaign, UCF has won 103 games, which ranks 31st nationally and second among all programs in Florida.

Home Sweet Home: This year, the Golden Knights are 12-1 at home, where they average 77.4 points and hold a +16.2 scoring margin. On the road, the squad is averaging 72.2 points. The team is shooting 51.7 percent from the field at the UCF Arena, compared to 42.9 percent away from home. In the last four years, the Golden Knights are 46-10 at home.

Closing Time: UCF has just three games remaining at the UCF Arena. The squad is slated to move into the new Convocation Center on campus this fall. All-time, the Golden Knights are 140-81 at the arena.

Peppers Gets Hot: Josh Peppers has been strong offensively in UCF's last seven contests, averaging 17 points during the span. He is shooting 50.6 percent overall and 46.9 percent from deep in the Golden Knights' last seven games. Peppers has been UCF's top offensive performer in Conference USA play. He is averaging 15.2 points, good for fifth in the league, in conference games and has had nine double-digit scoring performances.

Full House: Attendance is up for the Golden Knights in 2006-07 as the squad is averaging 2,541 fans per game. A year ago, UCF averaged 1,541 fans at home as 23,115 spectators watched the team play at home. This season, a school-record 33,033 fans have attended UCF home contests. UCF had its first sellout in school history when 4,805 spectators watched the squad host 10th-ranked Memphis on Jan. 31. The Golden Knights have already recorded five of the top-15 crowds in program history. Three of those have come in league play.

Free Falling: In its last four games, UCF has shot 83 percent at the free-throw line. On the year, UCF leads Conference USA, shooting 73.2 percent at the charity stripe. Last year, the Golden Knights were less than solid at the line, shooting 64.3 percent. This season, three Golden Knights are in C-USA's top-15. Dave Noel (84.2) is third, Josh Peppers ranks 10th at 76.4 percent, followed by Lavell Payne (11th at 75.7 percent). In the last four games, Noel is shooting 92 percent (23-of-25) from the line and Payne has made 21-of-23 (91.3 percent) of his free-throw attempts.

Noel Making His Mark at the Line: Dave Noel ranks 57th nationally, shooting 84.2 percent at the free-throw line. Last year as a sophomore, he made 74.2 percent of his free-throw attempts.

Offensive Improvement: Last season, UCF scored more than 70 points in a contest only five times. In 2006-07, the Golden Knights have scored at least 70 points 17 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 +8.6 scoring margin.

Points Add Up for Peppers: Josh Peppers is seventh all-time at UCF with 1,296 career points. D'Quarius Stewart, who played at the school from 1996-00, is sixth on the scoring register with 1,387 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 is tops in Conference USA, shooting 47.9 percent from the floor. The team ranks 33rd nationally. Jermaine Taylor is 10th in the league, shooting 49.8 percent overall. Lavell Payne ranks 12th in the category (49.4). UCF has shot 50 percent or better from the field 10 times this year and is 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 games, he is averaging 12.5 points and 5.6 boards while shooting 55.8 percent overall, which ranks second in C-USA. 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 11th in Conference USA, connecting on 75.7 percent of his attempts at the free-throw line. Payne's effort is impressive, considering he shot just 42.9 percent at the charity stripe in 2005-06. Last year, he made just 18-of-42 free-throw attempts.

Live from Orlando: UCF's contest with Southern Miss, which will be shown live on CSTV, will serve as the second nationally-televised home contest in school history. The Golden Knights' game with UAB on Feb. 4, 2006, which was also aired on CSTV, was the first nationally-televised home contest in UCF history.

Three the Easy Way: The Golden Knights are shooting 40 percent from 3-point range this year. The mark is the best in Conference USA and ranks 15th nationally. UCF has two of the most accurate shooters from deep in the conference. Mike O'Donnell is second in the league at 43.9 percent, followed by Jermaine Taylor (43.8) at third.

Triple Trouble: The Golden Knights have already connected on 203 3-pointers this season. That mark is tied for fifth on UCF's single-season register.

At the Half: The Golden Knights are 16-2 when leading at halftime this season. UCF has led at intermission in nine of its 12 Conference USA contests this year.

Changing of the Guard: As the backup point guard last year, Dave Noel averaged just 2.8 points in 11.8 minutes an outing. Now starting at shooting guard, the junior is averaging 9.4 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists. He is shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 84.2 percent at the free-throw stripe. Against league foes, he has made 63-of-71 (88.7 percent) of his free-throw attempts.

Minister of Defense: In addition to showing great improvement on offense, Dave Noel is developing into a defensive stopper for the Golden Knights. Noel has proved his strength on the defensive end in UCF's two victories over Rice this season. He spent most of both contests guarding Morris Almond, one of the top scorers in the nation. In the two contests, Noel limited Almond to just 6-of-28 shooting and a 2-of-11 showing from 3-point range. Almond is currently averaging 27.2 points, but averaged just 16.5 points versus UCF.

This Date in UCF History: In 1970, UCF defeated the New College at home, 117-64. The 1969-70 campaign served as UCF's first season.

Up Next: On Saturday, UCF plays its final road game of the year when the Golden Knights travel to face Tulsa. The all-time series is tied, 2-2, but UCF has won both contests since the programs joined Conference USA prior to last season. The Golden Knights will be playing in Tulsa for the first time since Dec. 4, 1989, when the Golden Hurricane claimed a 78-48 win. Tulsa is 2-0 against UCF at home. On Feb. 3, 2007, the Golden Knights posted a 63-53 victory over Tulsa in Orlando.