Golden Knights Host Houston for Pivotal C-USA Game

Feb. 27, 2007

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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - With only two games remaining in the regular season, the UCF men's basketball team hosts Houston on Wednesday evening in a pivotal Conference USA game. The winner of the contest, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at the UCF Arena, will clinch second in the C-USA standings.

The top four teams in the league standings clinch a first-round bye at the C-USA Championship, which begins on Wednesday, March 7. Both the Golden Knights (20-8, 9-5 C-USA) and Houston are tied for second in the conference.

UCF is 13-1 at home this year. The Cougars enter the game with a 15-13 overall mark and a 9-5 record in league action.

The UCF Student Government Association will select a student who exhibits the most school spirit as its "Fan of the Game." The student will receive a $250 scholarship. Fans who bring a canned good to the game may purchase a general admission ticket to the contest for $4.

Tickets for the game are available by visiting www.ticketmaster.com or by calling 407-839-3900. All UCF students are admitted free with a valid school ID.

UCF-Houston 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 Cougars lead the all-time series 3-1 and have won three-straight over UCF. Host Houston rallied from a 22-point second-half deficit to post a 73-70 overtime win over the Golden Knights on Jan. 24, 2007. The comeback spoiled a career-high 26 points from UCF's Lavell Payne. UCF led 35-15 at halftime, but the Cougars outscored UCF 49-29 in the second half. Robert McKiver totaled a game-high 36 points in the win. In their meeting in Orlando a year ago, the Cougars topped the Golden Knights, 78-71, on Feb. 15, 2006.

About Houston: The Cougars have one of the top offensive players in the league in Robert McKiver. The junior guard ranks second in the league and 40th in the country with 18.9 points per game. Oliver Lafayette is averaging 14.7 points and a league-high 2.5 steals. Houston is averaging 74 points, but allowing a conference-worst 71.2. The squad is connecting on 10.2 triples a game, which ranks third nationally. McKiver scored 32 points in Houston's 77-64 loss at Memphis on Saturday. He shot 13-of-28 overall and made five 3-pointers.

UCF Last Time Out: Playing in its final road game of the season, UCF fell 66-64 in overtime at Tulsa on Saturday. Lavell Payne and Mike O'Donnell both scored 14 points for the Golden Knights. UCF had a chance to send the game into a second overtime, but Jermaine Taylor's runner in the lane rimmed out with two seconds to play. The Golden Knights shot just 34.6 percent overall and 30.8 percent in the second half. UCF led 32-27 at the break.

20/20/20/20: With its victory over Southern Miss on Feb. 21, UCF posted its 20th win of the season. The Golden Knights have recorded 20-victory campaigns in four of the last five years. UCF has averaged 20 victories in the last six years.

You Play to Win the Game: UCF has already recorded 20 victories this season, eclipsing 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 16 league victories, the second-highest total among the new members. UTEP has posted 17 C-USA wins during the span. Rice (14), Tulsa (13), Marshall (10) 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.

Happy at Home: UCF is 13-1 at home this season, where it boasts a +15.2 scoring margin. With two home contests remaining in the year, the Golden Knights will be seeking to post the top home record in school history. During the 1993-94 campaign, the squad went 14-2 at the UCF Arena, for a .875 winning percentage. In the last four years, UCF is 47-10 in Orlando.

Closing Time: The Golden Knights have just two games remaining at the UCF Arena. The program will move into the new Convocation Center on campus next fall. All-time, UCF is 141-81 at the venue. The Golden Knights are 9-4 against Conference USA opponents in the arena.

Bouncing Back: This season, UCF is 7-0 following a loss. Josh Peppers has been the team's leader in those contests, averaging 14 points. UCF is 4-0 this campaign after losing a Conference USA game.

Full House: A school record 35,481 fans have attended UCF home contests this year. The Golden Knights are averaging 2,534 spectators in 2006-07, after averaging 1,541 last season. Five of the top-15 crowds in school history have been recorded this year and a UCF-record 4,805 fans watched the Golden Knights host No. 11 Memphis on Jan. 31.

Feeling it in February: UCF is 5-2 in February this year. In 2005-06, the Golden Knights went 3-5 during the month. UCF is 21-10 in February in the last four seasons.

Peppers Gets Hot: Josh Peppers has been strong offensively in UCF's last eight contests, averaging 16.3 points during the span. He is shooting 49.4 percent overall and 44.4 percent from deep in the Golden Knights' last eight games. Peppers has been UCF's top offensive performer in Conference USA play. He is averaging 14.7 points, good for sixth in the league, in conference games and has recorded 11 double-digit scoring performances.

Points Add Up for Peppers: Josh Peppers is seventh all-time at UCF with 1,320 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.

A Senior Moment: With two regular-season games remaining during his career, Josh Peppers has had one of the most productive tenures of any player in UCF history. During Peppers' four years with the Golden Knights, UCF has gone 83-38. He has appeared in a pair of NCAA Tournament games while at UCF.

Target Practice: UCF is tops in Conference USA, shooting 47.1 percent from the floor. The team ranks 50th nationally. Jermaine Taylor is 11th in the league at 48.5 percent and Lavell Payne ranks 14th (47.1).

Triple Trouble: The Golden Knights have already connected on 216 3-pointers this season. That mark is good for fourth on UCF's single-season register.

Three the Easy Way: The Golden Knights are shooting 39.8 percent from 3-point range this year. The mark is the best in Conference USA and ranks 21st nationally. UCF has two of the most accurate shooters from deep in the conference. Mike O'Donnell is second in the league at 43.8 percent, followed by Jermaine Taylor (42.3) at third. The team ranks second in the league, making 7.71 triples per contest.

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 12.9 points and 5.9 boards while shooting 50.4 percent overall, which ranks seventh 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.

Free Falling: A year after shooting just 64.3 percent at the charity stripe, the Golden Knights pace Conference USA in free-throw percentage (73). This season, three UCF players are in C-USA's top-15 in the category. Dave Noel (84.4) is third, Lavell Payne ranks 10th at 75.6 percent and Josh Peppers is 11th (75.5).

Taking the Charity: Dave Noel ranks 57th nationally, shooting 84.4 percent at the free-throw line. Against league opponents, he is shooting a conference-best 88.6 percent at the line. Last year as a sophomore, Noel made 74.2 percent of his free-throw attempts.

Payne Makes Gains at the Line: Lavell Payne ranks 10th in Conference USA, connecting on 75.6 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.

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 ust 63.3 points per game last season, the Golden Knights are scoring 73.4 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 +8.4 scoring margin.

Double Up: In 2005-06, two Golden Knights finished the campaign averaging double-figures in scoring - Josh Peppers (13.7) and Justin Rose (10.5). Four UCF players are currently scoring over 10 points a contest. Josh Peppers (13.8), Jermaine Taylor (13.1), Lavell Payne (10.6) and Mike O'Donnell (10.3) are all averaging double-digits in points this year.

Minister of Defense: In addition to showing great improvement on offense, Dave Noel is developing into a defensive stopper for the Golden Knights. A candidate for Conference USA's All-Defensive Team, 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 26.7 points, but averaged just 16.5 points versus UCF.

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 three assists. He is shooting 50 percent from the floor and 84.4 percent at the free-throw stripe.

Peppers from 3-Point Range: In his career at UCF, senior forward Josh Peppers has connected on 174 3-pointers, good for fourth all-time. His 475 3-point field goal attempts rank second at the school.

The Veteran: Josh Peppers has appeared in 119 games while at UCF, good for fourth in program history. The senior forward has played in a pair of NCAA Tournament games at UCF and is on pace to match the school's all-time games played mark of 122.

Peppers At the Line: Josh Peppers is seventh in program history with 248 free throws. Peppers is eighth in school history with 330 free-throw attempts.

MOD From Three: Mike O'Donnell has connected on 112 triples while with the Golden Knights. He ranks 10th all-time at UCF in the category. O'Donnell's 326 3-point field goal attempts are good for ninth in program history. The junior, who played at NC State as a freshman in 2003-04, has drained 130 3-pointers at the collegiate level.

The Starting Lineup: In 2005-06, Kirk Speraw used nine different starting lineups. Eight different Golden Knights started during the season. This year, Mike O'Donnell, Dave Noel, Josh Peppers, Lavell Payne and Kenrick Zondervan have started every contest.

No Turnover: Mike O'Donnell and Dave Noel have helped UCF take good care of the ball this season. O'Donnell is second in Conference USA with a 2.33 assist/turnover ratio. Noel is fifth (1.83). The junior guards have combined for 184 assists and just 89 turnovers this year.

On the Glass: UCF owns a +3.1 rebounding margin this year and has outrebounded 17 of its 28 opponents. The Golden Knights are 14-3 when having the edge on the glass, compared to 6-4 when their opponents grab more boards.

This Date in UCF History: In 1987, UCF breezed past visiting Florida International, 102-87. The 102 points were the ninth-most recorded by the Golden Knights at the Division I level.

Up Next: UCF concludes the regular season on Saturday, hosting East Carolina. The Golden Knights lead the all-time series, 6-0, and have won all four matchups since UCF joined Conference USA prior to last season. The squads will be meeting in Orlando for the second time. The teams played earlier this year and Josh Peppers scored 24 points to lift the visiting Golden Knights to a 67-49 win on Feb. 7. Peppers shot 9-of-10 from the field and 4-of-5 from deep. His .900 shooting percentage was good for third on the Conference USA all-time single-game register. Jermaine Taylor added 17 points in the victory. Courtney Captain paced the Pirates with 15 points. In four contests versus East Carolina, Peppers is averaging 18.5 points. He has connected on 14 3-pointers against the Pirates. The Golden Knights have claimed four-straight regular-season finales. The contest will serve as the program's final game at the UCF Arena.