Knights to Return to Action at Rice

Feb. 15, 2008

Complete Release in PDF Format

HOUSTON (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will return to the hardwood for the first time in a week when the Knights face host Rice for a Conference USA contest on Saturday. Tip-off at Reliant Arena is slated for 3 p.m. EST.

UCF's (12-11, 5-4 C-USA) last contest was Feb. 9 at No. 1 Memphis. The Knights are led by junior guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla./Tavares), who is averaging a league-best 24.4 points in C-USA games. An All-C-USA candidate, Taylor ranks 13th nationally in scoring (21.7).

Rice enters Saturday's contest 3-20 overall and 0-10 in league games.

The contest will be aired live on the UCF-ISP Sports Network and 740 AM in Orlando with Marc Daniels on the call. Live audio and statistics will be available at www.ucfathletics.com.

? Kirk Speraw (Iowa, 1980) is in his 15th season as UCF's head coach. He owns a 243-198 record at UCF. In his 18th year as a head coach, he has a 325-219 mark. In 2006-07, he was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year.
? Willis Wilson (Rice, 1982) is 219-239 in his 16th year as a head coach and at Rice.

? UCF has a 3-2 edge in the all-time series and has claimed all three Conference USA regular-season matchups with Rice since the two programs joined the league prior to the 2005-06 campaign. A year ago, the Knights took both regular-season meetings, but behind 30 points and a 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds remaining from Morris Almond, the Owls posted a 53-51 win over the Knights in the C-USA Championship quarterfinals.
? In Houston, the Knights are 2-1 against Rice, with wins in each of the last two seasons. The two victories came by an average of 12 points.
? In three games against the Owls last season, Dave Noel averaged 10.3 points and 3.3 assists, while Mike O'Donnell averaged 8.0 points and 3.0 assists.

? This season, all five of the Owls' season-opening starters have missed at least one game due to an injury. The team's top scorer and rebounder, Paulius Packevicious, has missed the last five contests. On the year, he is averaging 11.1 points and 9.8 rebounds, which is second in Conference USA.
? Rice has lost 13-consecutive games, most recently a 69-60 contest to visiting UAB on Wednesday. The Owls, who were led by 18 points and 10 rebounds from Patrick Britton, fell despite shooting 50 percent overall.
? Due to renovations at Autry Court, Rice's home facility, the Owls have played most of their games this season at Reliant Arena in Houston.

? After two-consecutive road games, the Knights will return home to host East Carolina on Wednesday. UCF has an 8-0 edge in the all-time series with the Pirates. On Jan. 19, Jermaine Taylor scored a game-high 32 points to lift the Knights to a 71-66 win over host East Carolina.

? Facing a top-ranked team for just the second time in program history, UCF fell 85-64 at No. 1 Memphis on Feb. 9. The Knights trailed just 43-35 at halftime, but the hosts opened the second half with a 24-9 run to pull way. Mike O'Donnell paced the Knights with 15 points.

? In the last six years, head coach Kirk Speraw's UCF program has enjoyed great success, winning 118 games. Dating back to the start of the 2002-03 campaign, the mark ranks second among the 11 programs in the state of Florida that have sponsored Division I basketball during that entire time.
? During that span, the Knights trail only Florida (156) and are ahead of Florida State (102) and Miami (87).

? When UCF met No. 1 Memphis on Feb. 9, it marked the Knights third game against a nationally-ranked opponent this season. At the Old Spice Classic in November, UCF faced No. 18 Kansas State and No. 19 Villanova.
? Four other squads that UCF played - Nevada, Ole Miss, Sam Houston State and Houston - were all garnering votes in national polls when meeting the Knights.
? UCF's non-conference slate, which was the toughest in program history, featured five opponents that participated in the postseason a year ago. The Knights faced Nevada twice (NCAA), Villanova (NCAA), Kansas State (NIT) and Ole Miss (NIT).
? In non-league play, UCF faced three BIG EAST programs (Villanova, USF, Connecticut) and teams from the Big Ten (Penn State), Big 12 (Kansas State) and SEC (Ole Miss).

? UCF's 11 losses this year have come by an average of 6.6 points. Five of the losses were by three points or less and three defeats have come in overtime.
? The Knights fell to No. 18 Kansas State and traditional power Connecticut by a combined five points. Thirteen of UCF's total games this season have been decided by 10 points or less.

? With Stanley Billings out of the lineup due to injury, reserve Jean Michel Yotio has seen an increase in his playing time and has also increased his production. In the five contests that Billings has missed, Yotio has averaged 4.8 points in 12.6 minutes on 57.9 percent shooting from the floor. The post player has averaged 2.4 rebounds and seven of his 12 boards on have come on the offensive end.
? Prior to Billings' injury, Yotio averaged 1.5 points and 1.1 boards while shooting 30.8 percent overall in 7.5 minutes per contest. This season, the native of the Ivory Coast is averaging 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds in 8.7 minutes per contest.

? The contest at Rice will serve as a homecoming for UCF's Chip Cartwright. The senior guard is from Houston and attended Phillis Wheatly High School. Cartwright will have another chance to play in front of his family and friends on March 5 when the Knights return to Texas to meet Houston.

? UCF will be playing in Texas for the third time this year when the Knights meet Rice. The squad has already faced Sam Houston State and SMU. On March 5, the Knights will play at Houston.
? The contest at Rice will serve as the Knights' ninth game in the state of Texas since the start of the 2005-06 campaign.

? When UCF entered Conference USA in 2005, the school was joined by five other programs, including four schools that were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Since joining C-USA, the Knights are 10-4 against the former WAC programs: UTEP (3-0), Tulsa (3-1), Rice (3-1) and SMU (1-2).

? UCF has been efficient offensively in Conference USA play this season, averaging 77.7 points, which ranks second in the league. The team is averaging 74.0 points on the season.
? The Knights have scored over 90 points in two league games in 2007-08. A year ago, the squad did not eclipse the 80-point mark in C-USA play as the Knights averaged 69.6 points in league games.
? Against league foes, UCF is shooting 46.3 percent overall, which ranks first in the conference. The team also paces C-USA in assists per game (15.2) in conference contests.

? Compared to this stage of the season a year ago, the Knights' offense during league games in 2007-08 is operating in a more efficient manner. Through nine C-USA games in 2006-07, UCF was averaging 67.8 points. This year, the squad is averaging 77.7 points in league action.
? The team was shooting at a 34.5 percent clip from 3-point range at this time last year, compared to 36.1 percent in 2007-08.

? UCF is starting three guards in 2007-08 and the trio of perimeter players - Mike O'Donnell, Dave Noel and Jermaine Taylor - have accounted for 61.9 percent of the Knights' points. Taylor (21.7) paces the Knights in scoring, followed by Noel (12.7) and O'Donnell (11.4).
? The three players have combined to make 143 of UCF's 165 3-pointers this season.

? Through 23 contests a year ago, no Knight had spent over 700 minutes on the court. That is not the case this season as Mike O'Donnell (799), Jermaine Taylor (771) and Dave Noel (755) have all logged at least 750 minutes for UCF.
? At this time in 2006-07, O'Donnell and Noel had played 691 and 649 minutes, respectively, and Taylor had seen 579 minutes of action off of the bench.

? Averaging 1.8 steals per game, Mike O'Donnell is currently second in Conference USA in the category. O'Donnell has 41 steals on the year. He paced the Knights in steals last season with 48.

? Thanks to Mike O'Donnell, UCF ranks third in Conference USA in steals per game (8.1). Five Knights have recorded more than 20 steals this year.

? Mike O'Donnell is one of just four players in UCF history that has dished out at least 300 assists and also recorded 130 or more steals. O'Donnell registered his 300th career assist while with the Knights at No. 1 Memphis on Feb. 9.
? Sinua Phillips (531 assists/179 steals), Cory Perry (512 assists/205 steals) and Bo Clark (302 assists/133 steals) are the only Knights who have achieved the feat.

? In just his third season with the Knights after transferring from NC State, Mike O'Donnell is making his mark in the UCF record book. He is currently listed in five career statistical categories: 3-point field goals (179-3rd), 3-point field goal attempts (456-5th), 3-point field goal percentage (.393-7th), assists (300-6th) and steals (134-8th).

? As a freshman last season, Tony Davis recorded just 15 blocked shots in 31 games. In only 21 contests in 2007-08, Davis has already recorded 29 swats.
? At USF on Dec. 1, Davis established a program single-game record with eight blocks.

? Kenrick Zondervan has shown continued improvement since arriving at UCF from Holland before the 2005-06 campaign. This year, the 6-foot-9 forward/center is averaging 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 23.0 minutes per contest.
? A year ago, he made 31 starts at center and averaged 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds. In Zondervan's rookie year (2005-06), he averaged just 0.3 points and 0.3 boards in limited action in 18 games.

Jermaine Taylor NOTABLES

? Jermaine Taylor is second in Conference USA and 13th nationally in scoring, averaging 21.7 points per game. The junior has paced the Knights in points in 19 of UCF's 23 games this season and has scored at least 20 points on 16 occasions.

? In UCF's win over Marshall on Feb. 6, Taylor totaled a career-high 34 points and in the process, became the 14th 1,000-point scorer in program history. In 83 games with the Knights, Taylor has recorded 1,024 points.
? He became the second member of his family to join the 1,000-point club at UCF. His cousin, Darryl Davis, scored 1,540 points with the Knights from 1991-95. Davis played for head coach Kirk Speraw for two seasons.
? Taylor needs just five points to move to 13th on the school's career scoring register, a spot that is currently occupied by Sinua Phillips (1990-94).

? Prior to this year, a UCF player had not scored at least 30 points in a game since the 2004-05 campaign. Taylor has achieved the feat on four occasions this season. He scored over 30 points in consecutive games (vs. Houston - Feb. 2; vs. Marshall - Feb. 6), becoming the first Knight to log back-to-back 30-point performances since the school moved to Division I in 1984. He totaled 31 points against Houston and recorded a career-best 34 points versus Marshall.
? He is the first UCF player to post more than three 30-point performances since the school joined the Division I ranks. Ken Leeks had the previous high with three 30-point games in 1991-92.

? Taylor is averaging 24.4 points in Conference USA games. Against league foes, Taylor is shooting 51.9 percent overall and 81.3 percent at the free-throw line.
? His field-goal percentage ranks 10th in C-USA and his free-throw percentage is 11th.
? The junior has exhibited his all-around game in league play as well, averaging 5.3 boards, which ranks 17th. On the defensive end in conference games, he is averaging 1.6 steals, good for ninth in the league.

? With one point against Rice on Saturday, Taylor will become the first Knight in four years to total at least 500 points in a season. Dexter Lyons was the last UCF player to achieve the feat, recording 567 points in 2003-04. A year ago, Josh Peppers was the Knights' leading scorer. In 31 games, he totaled 442 points for a 14.3 average.

? Not only does Taylor rank 13th nationally in scoring, he is tops among all players in Florida as well. Thirteen schools in Florida sponsor Division I basketball and Taylor's average is first among all players from those programs. Kentrel Gransberry (16.8) of USF is second in scoring in the Sunshine State.

? Taylor is eighth all-time at UCF with 138 3-pointers. This season, he has connected on 58 triples. His rise on the career 3-pointers chart is impressive, as he hit just 17 treys as a rookie in 2005-06.

? Each season at UCF, Taylor has shown great improvement on the court. In 2006-07, he averaged 12.7 points as UCF's sixth man. As a freshman the previous season, Taylor averaged 4.3 points in 11.7 minutes per game. He shot just 39.5 percent overall and 30.4 percent from 3-point range as a rookie.