Golden Knights Top Houston, Clinch Second in C-USA


Feb. 28, 2007

Box Score | Notes

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Five Golden Knights finished with double-figures in scoring as the UCF men's basketball team clinched second place in Conference USA on Wednesday evening, posting a 75-72 overtime victory over Houston at the UCF Arena. The Golden Knights, who are in their second season in the league, improved to 21-8 overall and 10-5 with the win.

After a free throw from UCF junior guard Chip Cartwright (Houston, Texas/Phillis Wheatley) to give the hosts a three-point advantage with five seconds left in overtime, the Cougars' (15-14, 9-6) Robert McKiver had a chance to send the contest into a second extra session, but his off-balance 3-point attempt did not fall.

Sophomore guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla./Tavares) paced UCF with 20 points in 36 minutes off of the bench. UCF won despite committing 26 turnovers. With the victory, the Golden Knights secured a first-round bye at the C-USA Championship, which begins Wednesday, March 7 in Memphis, Tenn.

"I am proud of our guys' effort. They are a tremendous group of young men," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "I am happy that they are able to accomplish this."

Houston led by three points with two minutes to play in overtime, but UCF grabbed the lead, getting a basket from junior guard Dave Noel (Boynton Beach, Fla./Boynton Beach) and a trey from junior guard Mike O'Donnell (Largo, Fla./Largo). O'Donnell's 3-pointer with 28 seconds to play gave the Golden Knights a 72-70 advantage.

UCF shot 51 percent overall for the game and held a 40-28 advantage on the glass. The contest featured 14 lead changes and 13 ties.

After Noel hit a pair of free throws with 11 seconds on the clock in regulation, the Golden Knights could not stop Houston as Charlie Jones found a wide-open Jahmar Thorpe inside for the game-tying dunk with three seconds remaining.

The game was played in front of 4,090 fans, good for the third-largest crowd in school history.

Despite shooting 56.5 percent overall in the opening half, UCF trailed 35-32 at intermission. The Cougars led 26-16 after McKiver hit one of his game-high five triples at the 7:31 mark, but Taylor kept the Golden Knights in the game. He hit three treys during a 12-4 UCF run. Senior forward Josh Peppers (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven) capped the spurt with a layup at the 4:21 mark that got the hosts within two points.

Senior forward Lavell Payne (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard) totaled 14 points in the win. Peppers had 13 points to go with a team-high seven rebounds. Noel recorded 11 points and O'Donnell added 10. Taylor shot 8-of-12 from the floor.

McKiver scored 25 points on 6-of-19 shooting from the field. Along with Oliver Lafayette (12 points, four steals), he played all 45 minutes. Thorpe finished with 17 points for the Cougars, who shot 38.1 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

The Golden Knights conclude the regular season at home versus East Carolina on Saturday. Tip-off is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will serve as the final UCF contest at the UCF Arena. The program will move into the new Convocation Center on campus in the fall.

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