UCF Falls to Rice at C-USA Championship


March 8, 2007

Box Score | Notes | Photo Gallery

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Rice's Morris Almond hit a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining in the game to lift the seventh-seeded Owls past No. 2 UCF, 53-51, on Thursday in the Conference USA Championship quarterfinals at the FedEx Forum. The shot overshadowed the performance of the Golden Knights' (22-9) Josh Peppers (Memphis, Tenn./Whitehaven), who recorded his first career double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds.

Almond, the C-USA Player of the Year who entered the contest third nationally in scoring, registered 30 points on 10-of-20 shooting from the field. The Owls (16-15) will face No. 3 Houston or No. 6 Southern Miss in the semifinals on Friday.

"Great players make great plays. Morris is a great player," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "Give all the credit to Rice, they did a great job defensively and made it hard for us to get good looks."

UCF shot 37.7 percent overall for the game and committed 17 turnovers.

Rice grabbed its first lead of the contest with 3:21 to play on a jumper by Lorenzo Williams. When Almond made a pair of free throws with 2:28 remaining, the Owls went up 50-47.

A Peppers' layup got UCF within a point and junior guard Dave Noel (Boynton Beach, Fla./Boynton Beach) handed the Golden Knights a 51-50 edge with two foul shots at the 1:43 mark.

UCF had a chance to increase its advantage to four points on its next possession, but junior guard Mike O'Donnell's (Largo, Fla./Largo) trey attempt missed its mark.

UCF and Rice were meeting for the third time this season.

The Golden Knights led by as many as 10 points in the first half and took a 29-25 edge into halftime.

Peppers was the lone Golden Knight to finish with double-digits in scoring. Senior forward Lavell Payne (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./Dillard) led all players with a career-high 14 rebounds.

The Golden Knights shot 31.6 percent from deep and made 5-of-8 at the free-throw line.

Almond connected on seven free throws as Rice made 25 trips to the line. The Owls shot 36.2 percent overall.

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