UCF to Open C-USA Championship Thursday

March 11, 2008

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will open play at the 2008 Conference USA Championship at the FedEx Forum in Memphis, Tenn., on Thursday evening. The fourth-seeded Knights will meet No. 5 Southern Miss at 9:30 p.m. EST in the quarterfinals.

UCF (16-14) finished fourth in C-USA with a 9-7 league mark. As a result of their finish in the 12-team league, the Knights were one of four squads that garnered a first-round bye. Memphis is the top seed, followed by No. 2 UAB and No. 3 Houston.

The Knights' quarterfinal contest will be televised live regionally on CSS. Matt Stewart will handle the play-by-play duties and will be joined by former Mississippi State head coach Richard Williams.

Championship play gets underway on Wednesday with four first-round games. The semifinals are scheduled for Friday afternoon and the title game is slated for Saturday morning. The tournament champion receives C-USA's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

If the Knights win their quarterfinal contest, they will meet either Memphis or No. 8 Marshall/No. 9 Tulane in the semifinals. All semifinal games will be televised on CSTV. CBS will air the title contest.

UCF learned on Monday that junior guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla./Tavares) has earned a spot on the All-C-USA second team. Taylor is fourth in the league in scoring, averaging 20.7 points.

All of UCF's games at C-USA Championship will be broadcast live on the UCF ISP Sports Network and 740 AM in Orlando. Marc Daniels will provide the call from courtside in Memphis.

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 247-201 record at UCF. In his 18th year overall, he has a 329-222 mark. In 2006-07, he was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year. He is one of just 16 coaches nationally who have spent at least 14 full years with their current school.

? UCF has enjoyed immediate success in Conference USA, finishing in the top-five in the league standings in all three of its campaigns in the conference. A year after recording a second-place finish in C-USA, UCF completed 2007-08 fourth in the league. In its inaugural season in C-USA, UCF finished fifth in 2005-06.
? In the last three years, UCF is one of just six C-USA programs that have garnered first-round byes at the league championship: Houston (3), Memphis (3), UAB (2), UCF (2), Tulane (1) and UTEP (1).

? Since joining Conference USA prior to the 2005-06 campaign, the Knights have won 27 league contests, a mark that ranks fourth among the 12 C-USA programs during that span. Memphis has won 46 C-USA games in the last three years, followed by Houston (30) and UAB (30).

? UCF entered C-USA with five other programs and has won the most conference games among the new schools. Besides the Knights (27), UTEP (25) and Tulsa (23) have posted the most league victories among the new members.
? With the move to C-USA, the Knights have faced the biggest increase in competition, having previously competed in the Atlantic Sun. Rice, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP joined C-USA from the Western Athletic, and Marshall came to the conference from the Mid-American. In 2006-07, UCF went 11-5 in C-USA play to finish second in the 12-team league.

? In the last six years, head coach Kirk Speraw's UCF program has enjoyed great success, winning 122 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.
? UCF has recorded more victories than a pair of Atlantic Coast Conference programs: Florida State (106) and Miami (93).

? For the second-straight year, UCF proved Conference USA's head coaches wrong. UCF was picked to finish sixth in C-USA in the league's preseason coaches' poll, which was released in October. Memphis was tabbed to win the league with Houston and UAB tied for second. Southern Miss (4) and Tulsa (5) were selected ahead of the Knights.
? Prior the 2006-07 campaign, UCF was picked to finish seventh by the league's coaches. The Knights ignored the preseason selection, going 11-5 in conference play to finish second in the league.

? UCF's starting point guard, Mike O'Donnell, injured his right foot prior to the team's March 8 game at Tulsa and will be out for the Conference USA Championship.
? One of the best players in school history, O'Donnell is third on the squad this season in points (11.9) and assists (3.0) per game. The senior ranks third in C-USA in 3-point field goals made per game (2.6) and is fourth in steals (1.6). He is seventh in the league in minutes, averaging 34.3 an outing. Against C-USA foes, he averaged 13.3 points and shot 40.6 percent from deep.
? Before missing the Tulsa game, O'Donnell had made 89-consecutive starts. He had never missed a game or a start since transferring to UCF from NC State after his freshman year.
? In three campaigns with the Knights, the Largo, Fla., native connected on 195 triples, good for second in program history. He is also among the school's all-time leaders in assists (319, fifth) and steals (140, eighth).

? The health of the Knights was a big reason why UCF went 22-9 in 2006-07. In UCF's 12-man rotation a year ago, only one player missed any games due to injury (Stanley Billings-three).
? The 2007-08 campaign has been different. UCF players have missed 19 contests due to injury.
? After averaging 7.5 points in UCF's first two contests of the year, backup guard Mike Battle missed 11 games with a leg injury. Billings, the team's starting center, missed seven games in Conference USA play because of an injury to his elbow. Freshman Chris Baez, who was expected to be one of the team's top perimeter players off the bench, is out for the season with a knee injury. Without Billings in the lineup, UCF went 3-4.

? UCF faced the toughest non-conference schedule in school history this season. 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).
? The Knights met a pair of nationally-ranked teams in November at the Old Spice Classic, facing No. 18 Kansas State and No. 19 Villanova. Three other squads that UCF played - Nevada, Ole Miss and Sam Houston State - were all garnering votes in national polls when meeting the Knights.
? UCF's non-conference slate 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 Conference USA play, the Knights faced No. 1 Memphis and also played Houston on Feb. 2 when the Cougars were garnering votes in the Associated Press Top 25.
? The Knights' win over Penn State at the Old Spice Classic was impressive, as the Nittany Lions went on to record victories over No. 7 Michigan State and No. 17 Indiana in Big Ten play.

? The Knights have a 2-1 edge in the all-time series with Southern Miss. The squads met once this year, opening the 2007-08 Conference USA schedule on Jan. 8 in Hattiesburg. Dave Noel scored a game-high 17 points as the Knights shut down Southern Miss, posting a 52-41 victory.
? The 41 points scored by Southern Miss were the second-fewest recorded against the Knights since the program moved to the Division I level in 1984. UCF limited the Golden Eagles to just 15 points in the first half. Southern Miss made just 15 field goals for the contest and shot just 31.9 percent from the floor. The hosts went 1-of-10 from 3-point range.
? UCF's defense was strong early as the Knights held Southern Miss scoreless for nine minutes early in the first half. The hosts led 3-2 after a free throw from Courtney Beasley at the 18:48 mark, but the Golden Eagles did not score until Jeremy Wise made two foul shots with 9:51 to play in the half.
? Jermaine Taylor totaled 13 points to go with a game-high eight boards in the win. Mike O'Donnell hit a pair of 3-pointers and finished with 10 points. Wise led Southern Miss with 14 points.
? The teams have never met at the Conference USA Championship.

? If the Knights win their quarterfinal game, they will face the winner of the No. 1 Memphis/No. 8 Marshall or No. 9 Tulane contest in the semifinals on Friday.

? UCF's 13 losses this year have come by an average of 7.6 points. Five of the losses were by three points or less and three defeats came in overtime.
? The Knights fell to No. 18 Kansas State and traditional power Connecticut by a combined five points. Seventeen of UCF's total games this season have been decided by 10 points or less.
? Subtracting UCF's loss at top-ranked Memphis and at Tulsa (without Mike O'Donnell), the Knights' five Conference USA defeats have come by an average of 4.4 points.

? UCF will be competing at the Conference USA Championship for the third time. UCF is 1-2 at the event.

? For the fifth-consecutive season, UCF will be participating in a conference championship in Tennessee. Since 2005, Conference USA has held its event in Memphis. In 2004 and 2005, the Knights competed at the Atlantic Sun Championship in Nashville.

? Under Kirk Speraw, UCF is 22-9 in conference tournament games. The Knights went 21-7 under Speraw from 1994-05 in the Atlantic Sun Championship. UCF has won nine of its last 12 conference tournament contests. Speraw guided UCF to four A-Sun Championship titles and seven finals appearances.

? The month of March lacks the expected "madness" for the Knights. Under Kirk Speraw, UCF is 23-13 during the month.

? Playing without starting point guard Mike O'Donnell, UCF concluded the regular season on Saturday, falling 71-53 at Tulsa. The Knights trailed by two points with seven minutes to play, but Tulsa used a 13-0 run to pull away. Dave Noel scored a game-high 17 points for UCF.

? UCF finished the regular season with two-consecutive road games, playing at Houston and Tulsa. The Knights were one of two Conference USA squads (East Carolina) that ended the year with two-straight contests away from home.

? A trio of perimeter players - Mike O'Donnell, Dave Noel and Jermaine Taylor - have accounted for 61.4 percent of the Knights' points this season. Taylor (20.7) paces the Knights in scoring, followed by Noel (13.1) and O'Donnell (11.9).
? The three players have combined to make 187 of UCF's 224 (83.4 percent) 3-pointers this season.

? In league games, the Knights led Conference USA in field goal percentage. The squad shot 46.1 percent from the floor against conference foes.

? Against Conference USA opponents, UCF averaged 75.2 points. The Knights scored at least 80 points against conference foes on six occasions.
? In non-conference games in 2007-08, UCF averaged 71.6 points. Last year, the Knights averaged 69.6 points in C-USA contests.

? In league play, UCF recorded two of the top offensive performances in Conference USA history. On Feb. 20 in a 110-75 home win over East Carolina, the Knights scored the fourth-most points all-time in a C-USA league game.
? In Orlando on Jan. 23, UCF rolled to a 109-80 victory over UTEP. The 109 points ranked fifth in C-USA history. UCF equaled its best shooting effort during the school's Division I era as the Knights connected on 40-of-57 attempts (70.2 percent) from the floor against the Miners. The percentage was the highest recorded in a C-USA game in league history.
? The 109 points that UCF scored were the most given up by UTEP since it allowed Arizona State to total 119 in 1961 and were the third-most scored by a Miner opponent in school history. UTEP began its program in 1913.
? Prior to this season, UCF had not registered two 100-point games in the same campaign since 1995-96.

? UCF has connected on 224 3-pointers in 2007-08. That mark is fifth on the school's single-season 3-point field goals made list. The 2004-05 squad hit a school-record 283 treys.

? This season, the Knights are 16-2 when leading at halftime. In the last two years, the squad is 33-6 when taking a lead into intermission.
? In 2007-08, UCF has outscored its opponents 1,061 to 895 before intermission. The Knights are shooting 45.3 percent overall in the first half, while limiting their foes to a 38.7 percent showing.

? The Knights were happy to share the ball in Conference USA play, averaging a league-high 15.5 assists. Memphis (15.1) ranked second in the category.
? The Knights recorded at least 15 assists in 10 of their 16 conference games and on two occasions, posted 25 assists.
? On the year, the Knights have totaled 457 assists and are 10 assists shy of entering the top-five on the school's single season register. Three Knights have dished out at least 85 assists in 2007-08, led by Chip Cartwright with 105. Dave Noel has recorded 93 assists and Mike O'Donnell totaled 88.

? This season, foes are shooting just 33.5 percent from 3-point range against the Knights. In league play, Conference USA opponents connected at a 32.4 percent clip from deep versus UCF.

? A year ago, UCF used the same starting lineup for 30 of its 31 contests. The only change came on senior night when Adam Gill started for Kenrick Zondervan at center.
? This season, UCF head coach Kirk Speraw has used seven starting lineups as nine different Knights have earned starts. Dave Noel is the lone UCF player to start all 30 games. Mike O'Donnell made 29 starts before missing the contest at Tulsa on March 8. Speraw used five different groups of starters in UCF's final five regular-season games.

? The Knights' inaugural season at the new UCF Arena was a success. Not only did the team go 12-4 at home, but the program also established a new attendance record.
? A school-record 78,253 fans attended 16 home contests for an average of 4,891. A year ago, a then-school record 43,296 spectators witnessed the Knights play 16 home games at the old UCF Arena.
? This year, 10 of the top-12 crowds in school history were recorded. A UCF record 7,097 fans were on hand on Jan. 12 as the Knights hosted Tulsa in the inaugural Conference USA game at the new facility.
? UCF's attendance average ranked fourth among the 13 Division I programs in Florida. The Knights averaged more spectators than several schools, including Miami (4,322) of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

? The Knights enjoyed playing at the new UCF Arena against Conference USA opponents. In eight league games in Orlando, the squad averaged 87.9 points.
? UCF shot 51.0 percent overall and 42.4 from long distance at home during conference play. The team also averaged 17.8 assists. ? On the year, UCF averaged 81.1 points at the new UCF Arena, compared to 63.6 points on the road.

? UCF ranks third in Conference USA, averaging 7.8 steals a contest. The Knights have totaled 234 steals in 2007-08, compared to 181 for their opponents.

Dave Noel Notes

? Dave Noel ranks second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.1 points. The versatile senior guard is also averaging 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists on the year. Noel has started 61-consecutive games for the Knights.

? In each season at UCF, Noel has exhibited great improvement offensively. This year, he is second on the team in scoring at 13.1 points per game. A year ago, Noel averaged 9.1 points. In his first campaign with the Knights after transferring from UNC-Wilmington, Noel totaled 2.8 points per game as the team's backup point guard in 2005-06.

? In UCF's last nine contests, Noel exhibited his versatility. During the span, he averaged 13.7 points, scoring in double-figures each game. Noel shot 54.3 percent overall and 50.0 percent from deep. He also averaged 4.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.

? UCF did not have the services of Mike O'Donnell at Tulsa on March 8. Without O'Donnell in the lineup, Noel picked up some of the scoring slack for the Knights, leading all players with 17 points. He shot 6-of-11 from the field and hit three 3-pointers.

? In his first two campaigns with the Knights, Noel rarely shot the ball from 3-point range. He attempted 79 triples, making 26 (32.9 percent).
? Now in his third year at UCF, the senior has not been shy about shooting from deep this season and the results have paid off for the Knights. Noel has made 39-of-83 attempts from behind-the-arc in 2007-08. He paces Conference USA in 3-point field goal percentage (47.0).

? Noel ranks 10th in Conference USA, making 51.9 percent of his field goal attempts. Along with Chris Douglas-Roberts, Noel is one of two perimeter players in the league's top 10 in the category.

? As UCF's top defender, Noel is usually asked to guard the opponent's best perimeter player each game. He handled the task with great success at Houston on March 5, limiting Robert McKiver to 15 points on 4-of-15 shooting from the floor. McKiver entered the contest 10th nationally, averaging 23.1 points.

? Noel is 10th in Conference USA in steals per game, recording 1.3 swipes per contest. He has 39 steals on the year.

? In his third campaign with the Knights, Noel ranks fourth in program history in career free-throw percentage, shooting at an 81.6 percent clip. Cleveland Jackson (1977-79) is the school's leader in the category at 83.8 percent. This year, Noel is 10th in Conference USA, shooting 79.5 percent from the line.
? During his three years at UCF, Noel has made 235 free throws, good for ninth on the school's all-time list. Darryl Davis (1991-95) is eighth with 245 foul shots.

Mike O'Donnell Notes

? UCF's captain this season, Mike O'Donnell will finish his career as one of the top players in UCF history. He is currently listed in five career statistical categories: 3-point field goals (195-2nd), 3-point field goal attempts (500-2nd), 3-point field goal percentage (.390-7th), assists (319-5th) and steals (140-8th).

? O'Donnell is one of just four players in UCF history who have 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 other Knights who have achieved the feat.

? In 29 contests this year, O'Donnell has logged 994 minutes, which ranks fifth on UCF's single-season register. He is averaging 34.2 minutes per game, good for seventh in Conference USA.
? O'Donnell logged at least 35 minutes in a game on 17 occasions.

Jermaine Taylor Notes

? Jermaine Taylor leads UCF and is fourth in Conference USA in scoring, averaging 21.0 points. He has paced the Knights in points in 23 of UCF's 30 contests and has scored at least 20 points on 19 occasions.

? This season, Taylor has scored 621 points. The total is the most by any Knight since the school joined the Division I ranks in 1984. The 621 points are good for sixth on the school's single-season scoring register.
? Bo Clark scored a UCF-record 806 points during the 1976-77 season. All-time, UCF players have recorded more than 600 points in a campaign on only eight occasions.
? Taylor is the first Knight to score over 600 points in a season since Bo Clark totaled 751 in 1979-80. A year ago, Josh Peppers was the Knights' leading scorer. In 31 games, he totaled 442 points for a 14.3 average.

? In just his third season in Orlando, Taylor ranks 13th all-time at UCF with 1,146 points. On Feb. 6 at home against Marshall, he totaled a career-high 34 points and in the process, became just the 14th 1,000-point scorer in program history.
? 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. ? Paul Reed (1999-02) is 12th at UCF with 1,182 points.

? Not only does Taylor rank among the top-25 nationally in scoring, he is tops among all players in Florida as well. Thirteen schools in the Sunshine State sponsor Division I basketball and Taylor's average is first among all players from those programs. Miami's Jack McClinton (17.4) is second in the state in points per game.

? 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.

? Taylor ranks ninth in Conference USA, shooting 79.7 percent at the free-throw line. In league games only, he shot 82.4 percent at the line.
? A year ago, he shot at a 71.1 percent clip at the charity stripe, after making just 44.0 percent (11-of-25) of his attempts as a freshman in 2004-05.

? Taylor is 10th in Conference USA, averaging 33.3 minutes per contest. He has totaled 1,000 minutes in 2007-08, good for fourth on UCF's single-season register. Gary Johnson (1,086 minutes in 2004-05) is first in the category.

? At home this season, Taylor averaged 22.3 points on 50.4 percent shooting from the floor. Against league foes at the new UCF Arena, he averaged 24.8 points and shot 55.0 percent overall.

? Taylor has connected on 73 3-pointers this season. That number is good for eighth on UCF's single-season register. He is eighth all-time at UCF with 153 career triples. His rise on the career 3-pointers chart is impressive, as he hit just 17 treys as a rookie in 2005-06.

? Prior to this year, a UCF player had not scored at least 30 points in a game since the 2004-05 campaign. Taylor 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 have 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.

? Despite standing 6-foot-4, Taylor is second on the team in rebounds per game (4.8). Against Conference USA opponents, he averaged 5.1 boards.

? Taylor has garnered a pair of Conference USA Player of the Week honors this season. After leading the Knights to a 2-0 start in C-USA play, Taylor won the award on Jan. 14. He averaged 20.5 points and 8.5 rebounds in a pair of contests. ? In the Knights' 97-91 triple-overtime victory over Tulsa, Taylor played a career-high 49 minutes and led all players with 28 points. He also paced UCF with nine boards. On Dec. 31, he was named the C-USA Player of the Week for the first time in his career. He earned the award after averaging 25.2 points in a pair of games.

Chip Cartwright Notes

? With Mike O'Donnell out of the UCF lineup, Chip Cartwright is expected to start at point guard for the Knights. Cartwright is ninth in Conference USA, averaging 3.5 assists. He is seventh in the league in assist/turnover ratio at 1.81.
? Cartwright started for just the second time in his two-year career at UCF in the Knights' last contest at Tulsa on March 8. In 36 minutes, he dished out seven assists and had just one turnover. He also added six points and four boards. The Houston native also appeared in the starting lineup on March 1, as the Knights hosted Rice on senior night.

? Cartwright has shown great improvement in his second year at UCF. This season, he is averaging 5.1 points and 2.7 boards. A year ago, the junior-college transfer appeared in 24 contests and averaged 2.5 points and 1.9 boards. He totaled 46 assists in 2006-07.
? Cartwright is averaging 21.0 minutes per contest in 2007-08, compared to 12.4 minutes a game last season.

Stanley Billings Notes

? At 29, Stanley Billings is the oldest player in the nation. After high school, he spent eight years in the Marines as a chef. Billings did not play organized basketball in high school.
? This season, he has started 23 contests and is averaging 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds. Billings is shooting 51.5 percent from the field this year. The 6-foot-11 center has recorded 28 blocks on the year.
? Last season, the Orlando native averaged 2.8 points and 2.1 boards in 9.8 minutes per contest as a reserve.

Kenrick Zondervan Notes

? Kenrick Zondervan has shown continued improvement since arriving at UCF from Holland before the 2005-06 campaign. This year, he is averaging 5.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 22.0 minutes per game.
? A year ago, he made 31 starts at center and averaged 3.9 points and 2.1 rebounds. In Zondervan's rookie year (2005-06), he averaged just 0.3 points and 0.3 boards in limited action in 18 games.
? As a freshman in 2005-06, Zondervan was listed at 215 pounds. He is currently listed at 250 pounds.

Mike Battle Notes

? In his first 12 games of the season, Mike Battle totaled just 33 points. Battle was a major contributor for the Knights in the last six contests of the regular season, scoring a combined 50 points.
? He averaged 8.3 points during the span and shot 59.3 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from deep, making 12-of-23 3-point field goal attempts.
? On the year, 20 of his 27 made field goals have been from 3-point range.

Tony Davis Notes

? Tony Davis has made great strides as a sophomore. The forward leads UCF on the glass, averaging 5.9 rebounds per contest. On the season, he is averaging 6.6 points. Davis earned nine starts this season.
? The 2005-06 Florida Class 6A Player of the year at Riverview High School in Sarasota, Davis averaged 2.9 points and 3.8 boards a year ago.

? In 31 games as a freshman in 2006-07, Davis totaled 15 blocked shots. This season, he leads UCF with 33 swats. At USF on Dec. 1, he established a school single-game record with seven blocks.

Taylor Young Notes
? After sitting out the 2006-07 campaign as a redshirt, Taylor Young has appeared in 23 contests for the Knights this season. He has recorded 24 assists and 14 steals. Young was in the starting lineup for UCF's contest versus Tulane on Feb. 27, becoming the first freshman to start for the Knights since the 2002-03 season.

Andre Thornton Notes

? UCF's roster features one native of Memphis, Andre Thornton. The reserve forward attended Mitchell High School and is in his second year with the Knights. When UCF played at top-ranked Memphis on Feb. 9, Thornton totaled two points and a rebound in eight minutes.
? Thornton did not play in the Knights' C-USA Championship quarterfinal game with Rice at the FedEx Forum last season, but is no stranger to the facility. Following his senior year in high school, he played in the Memphis All-Star Classic game at the arena.

Jean Michel Yotio Notes

? Jean Michel Yotio has gained valuable experience playing for the Knights this season. The freshman post player has appeared in 28 contests for the Knights. On the season, he is averaging 2.2 points and 1.5 rebounds.
? A native of the Ivory Coast, he missed time during UCF's preseason training due to a shoulder injury.