UCF Rallies Past Southern Miss for 20th Win


Feb. 21, 2007

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Junior guard Mike O'Donnell (Largo, Fla./Largo) scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second half as the UCF men's basketball team won its 20th game of the season, rallying past Southern Miss for a 59-56 Conference USA victory on Wednesday evening at the UCF Arena. O'Donnell hit four 3-pointers after intermission for the Golden Knights (20-7, 9-4 C-USA).

Southern Miss (17-9, 7-6) led 45-38 with 7:41 to play in the contest, but the hosts rallied as senior forward Lavell Payne (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard) and O'Donnell sparked a 15-3 run. Payne hit seven free throws during the spurt and O'Donnell connected on two triples.

When Payne hit a pair of foul shots at the 3:48 remaining, he gave the Golden Knights a 49-48 advantage - their first lead since the 10:31 mark of the first half.

"I am very proud of our effort," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "This was a gut-check win. They (UCF) came up with the stops defensively when they needed to. We showed tremendous character and poise."

UCF now has posted 20-victory campaigns in four of the last five years.

Following the run in the second half, UCF built its lead to six points with 20 seconds remaining. The Golden Eagles refused to go away, getting within one point on a 3-point play from Jeremy Wise with seven seconds on the clock. After two free throws from UCF junior guard Dave Noel (Boynton Beach, Fla./Boynton Beach), Southern Miss had a chance to tie the game, but Wise's 3-point attempt as time expired was long.

Both teams struggled offensively as UCF shot just 35.6 percent for the game and the Golden Eagles connected on 31.3 percent of their field goals.

Southern Miss led 26-18 at the break after the hosts made just seven shots from the field and shot 29.2 percent overall. The Golden Eagles grabbed 13 offensive rebounds in the opening period and scored 14 of their 26 points in the paint in the first half.

The teams were meeting in Orlando for the first time.

All five of O'Donnell's made field goals were from deep. He recorded four assists in a team-high 36 minutes. Payne went 8-of-10 at the line and totaled 14 points and seven boards. Senior forward Josh Peppers (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven) grabbed a team-high nine boards and scored 12 points.

Wise led all players with 22 points. In the loss, Sai'Quon Stone had a double-double with 11 boards and 10 points.

UCF will play its final road game of the year on Saturday, facing Tulsa. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. Eastern.

For the latest news and information on the Golden Knights, tickets or apparel, log on to www.ucfathletics.com - the official site for UCF athletics.