Men's Basketball Posts Another Successful Season

March 16, 2007

by Doug Richards

As he sat on stage in the FedEx Forum's media interview room, Josh Peppers succinctly summed up UCF's 2006-07 season. The campaign, which concluded with a loss to Rice in the Conference USA Championship quarterfinals in Memphis, Tenn., was one of the most successful years in the program's Division I history.

"I am happy at some of the accomplishments. I wish things could have gone another way," Peppers said. "I am proud of what happened this year. This was a great season for myself and the team."

The senior forward could not have described the Golden Knights' second campaign in C-USA any better. Selected to finish seventh in the league's preseason poll, UCF went 22-9 overall and 11-5 against C-USA foes to conclude the regular season second in the conference standings.

Head coach Kirk Speraw was most pleased with his squad's improvement. The Golden Knights posted a 14-15 overall mark and a 7-7 league record in 2005-06. Speraw points to the team's chemistry as the key to its success.

"We have a great group of young men," Speraw said. "From the start of workouts over the summer, they have been dedicated to growing as individual players and as a team. I am extremely proud of the success that they had."

UCF's success this past year started with its enhanced offense. The squad averaged 72.8 points in 2006-07, nearly a 10-point increase from the previous season. Four Golden Knights finished the campaign averaging double-figures in scoring and the team eclipsed the 70-point mark 19 times.

The Golden Knights were the top shooting team in C-USA, hitting 47 percent of its shots from the field and 39.4 of its attempts from 3-point range. They made 239 triples, good for second on the school's single-season register.

"Our shooting accuracy was very important to our success," Speraw said. "If you shoot the ball well, which we did, you are going to have the chance to win a lot of games. I give the credit to our guys who all spent a lot of extra time in the gym, working on their game."

Speraw, who earned C-USA Coach of the Year honors following the regular season, is quick to point out that his team's determination paid off this year. While praising his team prior to the league championship, he reminded reporters that the Golden Knights did not lose back-to-back games during the season, going 8-0 after a loss.

"That says a lot about our team. They never got too down after a loss and always recovered. They bounced back and always responded to adversity."

In addition to Speraw, Peppers also received conference accolades. After averaging 15.3 points during league play, he was named to the All-C-USA Second Team, becoming the first Golden Knight to garner all-conference honors from C-USA. Peppers led UCF with 14.3 points per game on the year.

His senior campaign was a memorable one. In December, Peppers became just the 13th 1,000-point scorer in program history. He finished his career with 1,376 points, good for seventh all-time. The Memphis, Tenn. native appeared in 122 contests as a Golden Knight, tying him with former teammate Troy Lindbeck for the most games in school history.

Peppers was not the only individual who excelled this season. Dave Noel, Mike O'Donnell, Lavell Payne and Jermaine Taylor all made great strides during the campaign. One of three seniors on the team along with Peppers and Adam Gill, Payne was UCF's top player up inside. The power forward averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 boards after recording 4.3 and 3.2, respectively, the previous year.

With Peppers graduating, the coaching staff is expecting Taylor to handle much of the load offensively next season. As a sophomore, Taylor was one of the top sixth men in the nation this year, averaging 12.7 points in 25.2 minutes off of the bench. He is one of 10 letterwinners from this season's squad that is returning next year.

Off of the court, a school-record 43,296 fans attended UCF home games this season, an 87-percent increase from 2005-06. Three of the top five crowds in program history were recorded this season as the team averaged 2,706 spectators per contest.

The support in the stands was a big reason why the Golden Knights won 15 contests at the UCF Arena this year, losing only to No. 11 Memphis in Orlando. The 15 victories at home were a school record.

The increase in attendance came at the right time as the program will move into the new Convocation Center on campus in the fall. The new venue will have room for 10,000 fans and will give the Golden Knights one of the top facilities in the nation.

"We received tremendous support at home this season. It is important that the support continues as we move into the Convocation Center next year," Speraw said. "This is an exciting time to be a UCF fan."