Knights Drop Close C-USA Contest at Houston


March 5, 2008

Box Score | Notes

HOUSTON (www.ucfathletics.com) - Senior guard Mike O'Donnell (Largo, Fla./Largo) totaled a team-high 19 points, but it was not enough to lead the UCF men's basketball team past Houston on Wednesday evening as the Cougars held on for a 73-68 victory at Hofheinz Pavilion. The Cougars made 18-of-23 free throws in the second half to record the Conference USA win.

The Knights (16-13, 9-6 C-USA) trailed by six points with 3:08 to play, but cut the Houston (22-7, 11-4) edge to 69-68 with 42 seconds remaining when junior guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla./Tavares) went backdoor for a layup. On the ensuing possession, the Cougars' Marcus Malone nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to push the hosts' lead to three points with 30 seconds to go.

With UCF trailing by three points, Houston's defense forced a turnover from Taylor with six seconds on the clock, securing the win for the Cougars.

"This was a very hard-fought basketball game. It was a well-played game," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "Big players made big plays. Defensively, we did a good job overall. We just had a team (Houston) that got to the line too much. In a tight, possession-by-possession kind of game, you cannot have that."

UCF committed 17 fouls after intermission. With the win, Houston clinched the third seed in the C-USA Championship, which begins next week.

O'Donnell hit five triples in 37 minutes for the Knights.

The opening half featured seven ties and seven lead changes. Senior guard Mike Battle (Waldorf, Md./Southern Maryland Christian) nailed a triple on UCF's last possession of the half to give the Knights a three-point edge.

Houston's Lanny Smith then drained a 3-pointer with three seconds left in the half to tie the score at 31 at intermission.

The Cougars attempted 19 treys in the opening 20 minutes.

Taylor scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half. Senior guard Dave Noel (Boynton Beach, Fla./Boynton Beach) scored 11 points and led all players with eight assists.

UCF shot 40.7 percent overall for the game.

Tafari Toney led Houston with 19 points and Lanny Smith added 16 in the win.

UCF concludes the regular season on Saturday at Tulsa. After facing the Golden Hurricane, the Knights will travel to Memphis, Tenn., for the C-USA Championship, which begins on March 12.

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