Knights to Meet South Dakota State at Cancun Challenge

Nov. 28, 2008

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CANCUN, Mexico (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will begin play in paradise Saturday when the Knights face South Dakota State at the Cancun Challenge. Tip-off at the Moon Palace Resort is slated for 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

UCF (2-2) will play two games at the event to conclude a stretch of five-consecutive games away from home. After facing South Dakota State (2-3), the Knights will meet Morehead State (0-5) Sunday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.

The Knights began the tournament last weekend, posting a 72-71 victory at New Mexico. The win snapped the Lobos 33-game non-conference home winning streak.

Ten squads are competing at the Cancun Challenge, which is organized by Colorado-based Triple Crown Sports.

Senior guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla.) has led the Knights in scoring in all four of their games this season and is averaging 20.0 points.

Both of UCF's games at the Cancun Challenge will be aired on the UCF-ISP Sports Network and 740 AM in Orlando. Andy Demetra will provide play-by-play from the Moon Palace Resort. Pregame coverage will begin at 5:30 p.m. each day.

On Sunday, UCF-Morehead State will be televised live nationally on CBS College Sports. In the Orlando area, Bright House Sports Network will carry the game live. Thad Anderson is scheduled to handle the play-by-play duties and Pete Gillen will provide color commentary during the broadcast.

For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.

About South Dakota State
? The Jackrabbits have been led by Garrett Callahan this season. He has paced the squad in scoring in four of its five games and totaled 23 points in South Dakota State's 69-65 win over visiting Upper Iowa Tuesday. Callahan is averaging 18.6 points per game. He is one of three Jackrabbits averaging double-digits in points. Anthony Cordova is the team's leading rebounder at 9.8 per game.

Series Information
? UCF has a 2-1 edge in the all-time series with South Dakota State. The squads last met on Jan. 6, 2007, and the Knights posted a 72-61 win over the Jackrabbits in Brookings, S.D. Jermaine Taylor matched his career high at the time with 26 points on 9-of-14 shooting overall. He hit six triples in the win. Mike O'Donnell added 14 points for UCF and Lavell Payne had a double-double with 13 points and 12 boards.
? South Dakota State was an Independent institution during its three previous meetings with the Knights. Now the school is a member of the Summit League. UCF is 13-8 all-time against current Summit League members: Centenary (8-6), UMKC (2-0), South Dakota State (2-1) and Western Illinois (1-1).

Last Time Out
? Playing its third-straight game away from home, UCF fell 78-46 at Ole Miss Wednesday. Jermaine Taylor paced the Knights with 16 points. After UCF led by 12 points early in the game, the Rebels closed the first half with a 13-0 run and never looked back. The hosts outscored the Knights 51-20 after intermission.

Up Next for the Knights
? UCF will conclude the Cancun Challenge Sunday against Morehead State. The contest will be televised live nationally on CBS College Sports. The Knights and Morehead State will be meeting for the first time.

Been Around the World
? The trip to Mexico will mark the third time since 2004 that the Knights have participated in an event outside of the continental United States. In 2006-07, Kirk Speraw's squad played in the San Juan Shootout in Mexico. UCF opened the 2004-05 campaign at the BP Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska. Speraw's Knights also participated in the Hawaii Pacific Thanksgiving Tournament in 2000.

Ready for the World
? In its last two trips outside the continental United States, UCF has enjoyed great success. The Knights finished third at the eight-team San Juan Shootout in Puerto Rico in December 2006. The squad recorded victories over Utah and Tennessee Tech on the Isle of Enchantment. In November 2004, UCF went 3-0 to claim the title at the BP Top of the World Classic in Alaska. The Knights topped host Alaska-Fairbanks, Utah State and New Mexico State.

A Huge Win
? Kirk Speraw called it "one of the most significant wins in UCF history." The Albuquerque Journal declared it "one of the biggest upsets in Pit history." UCF's 72-71 victory at New Mexico on Nov. 22 was big for the program. The win ended a 33-game non-league winning streak for the Lobos at The Pit, which is considered one of the toughest venues in the nation.
? Before UCF's win, the previous non-league loss for New Mexico came in December 2004 to No. 5 Wake Forest. The winning streak included victories over Colorado, Kansas State, Oregon, San Diego, Texas Tech and No. 8 Wichita State. The Knights faced the Lobos in front of 12,707 fans at The Pit.

Flavor of the Month
? In recent years, UCF has enjoyed great success at the start of the season. The Knights are 26-6 in November dating back to the 2001-02 campaign.

Away from Home
? UCF's young team has been tested immediately this season as five of the squad's first six games are away from Orlando. The Knights opened the campaign on Nov. 16 at home against North Carolina A&T. Their next home contest will come 20 days later on Dec. 6 versus USF.
? The Knights began the string of games away from the Sunshine State on Nov. 18 at Valparaiso and then played at New Mexico. After meeting Ole Miss on Wednesday, UCF headed to Mexico for a pair of games in the Cancun Challenge.

Frequent Flyer Miles
? The Knights have traveled around the country, and North America, during the month of November. In total, trips to Chicago (Valparaiso), Albuquerque, N.M. (New Mexico), Memphis, Tenn. (Ole Miss) and Cancun, Mexico (Cancun Challenge) have the Knights traveling 7,338 miles via the air.

Tough Slate
? Before heading to Mexico, the Knights played three-consecutive games on the road against teams that won at least 20 games and played in the postseason a year ago. The stretch began on Nov. 18 at Valparaiso. The Crusaders won 22 contests and participated in the College Basketball Invitational last year. UCF then visited New Mexico on Nov. 22. The Lobos, a National Invitation Tournament squad in 2008, won 24 contests. The Knights played at Ole Miss on Wednesday. The Rebels also won 24 games in 2007-08 and played in the NIT.

Going for a Milestone
? In his 16th year at UCF, Kirk Speraw needs one more win to record his 250th victory at the school. Speraw enters the contest against South Dakota State with a 249-204 mark with the Knights.
? One of the longest-tenured coaches in the country, Speraw began his time at UCF in 1993-94. That year, the school's enrollment was listed at 23,000. Today, the university is one of the largest in the nation with an enrollment of 50,000. Speraw is one of just 15 coaches in the country who have spent at least 15-consecutive years at their current school. The 2006-07 Conference USA Coach of the Year, he has led the Knights to the NCAA Tournament four times.

The Youngsters
? With seven true freshmen and 11 total underclassmen, the Knights have one of the youngest squads in the nation this season. With an average age of 19.60, UCF is the fifth-greenest team in the nation. Denver (18.92) has the youngest squad, followed by Presbyterian (19.27), Saint Peter's (19.29) and Saint Louis (19.42). Including redshirt freshman Chris Baez, the Knights have eight rookies.
? Ironically, UCF had one of the country's oldest squads in 2007-08. The Knights had five seniors, including 29-year old Stanley Billings, on the roster. Last season's squad included two true and one redshirt freshman.

Welcome Back
? Tony Davis missed UCF's first two games of the year due to a knee injury. He returned at New Mexico and contributed for the Knights. The junior scored nine points and added four boards off the bench. The team's leading rebounder (5.9) from a year ago, Davis was expected to open the year as the squad's starting power forward. In two games this season, he is averaging 7.5 points.

The Future
? Kirk Speraw landed one of the biggest recruits in school history on Nov. 19 when Orlando's Keith Clanton signed a National Letter of Intent to play for the Knights. The MVP of the national AAU tournament this past summer, the 6-foot-8 forward was the Florida Class 1A Player of the Year for Orlando Christian Prep as a junior. Clanton averaged 21.0 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 2007-08. Clanton's signing received considerable coverage in the Orlando Sentinel, plus mentions on CBSsports.com and Foxsports.com.
? On Nov. 14, guard R.J. Scott of Slidell, La., signed an NLI to play at UCF. As a junior, Scott garnered Louisiana Class 4A All-State Honorable Mention honors after averaging 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game.

The Dish
? In UCF's last two contests, A.J. Rompza has averaged 6.0 assists per game. The rookie had a season-high seven assists at Ole Miss. Rompza has started all four of UCF's games at point guard. When he appeared in the opening lineup in the season opener versus North Carolina A&T, the Chicago native became the first true freshman to start for the Knights since Troy Lindbeck at Florida Atlantic on March 1, 2003.
? Rompza had the best game of his collegiate career at New Mexico. He totaled 9 points and also dished out five assists in 26 minutes.

Brand New
? This season, freshmen have accounted for 41.3 percent of UCF's scoring. Additionally, rookies are responsible for 54.5 percent of the Knights' assists.

Fair and Balanced
? After four games in 2008-09, only one Knight is averaging more than 22 minutes per contest - Jermaine Taylor (29.8). Last season, three players averaged over 33 minutes for UCF. With a young team, Kirk Speraw is rotating more players this year than in the past. Twelve Knights are averaging at least 10 minutes a game.

Puerto Rock
? The Knights have two players of Hispanic descent, including Isaac Sosa from Puerto Rico. The freshman has started his career in strong fashion. He totaled 18 points in UCF's season-opening win over North Carolina A&T and ranks second on the team in scoring at 8.5 points per game. The shooting guard has connected on 7-of-16 shots from 3-point range.
? Sosa is familiar with Mexican basketball from his time competing internationally with Puerto Rico. At the 2007 Centrobasket U17 Tournament in his homeland, Sosa totaled 13 points as Puerto Rico posted a 126-73 win over Mexico. Puerto Rico claimed the title at the event. This past summer, Sosa played for Puerto Rico at the 2008 FIBA Americas Championship in Argentina. Sosa averaged 13.8 points and 3.2 boards at the event.

Immediate Impact
? A.J. Tyler has made an immediate impact for the Knights in his first year of action at UCF. A transfer from Clemson, he is averaging 7.0 points and 4.0 boards in 2008-09. He is shooting 62.5 percent from the field and has made 5-of-8 (62.5 percent) of his attempts from deep. The 6-foot-9 sophomore has started UCF's last three contests.
? As a freshman at Clemson in 2007-08, he averaged 1.2 points and appeared in 30 contests.

On Reserve
? Through four contests this season, UCF's bench is producing 27.0 points per game. The bench accounted for 41 points in the season-opening win over North Carolina A&T.

The New School
? Nearly everything is new for the Knights on the UCF campus. A year ago, the program witnessed the opening of the 10,000-seat UCF Arena. The facility gives the Knights one of the top home floors in the country. This past summer, the program moved into its new practice facility. Located inside the team's previous home - the old UCF Arena - the facility consists of a practice court with six baskets and a permanent video system which provides a 180-degree view of the court. The practice facility also contains a new locker room and player lounge for the Knights, coaches' offices, a sports medicine room, a weight room and a film room.

Jermaine Taylor Notes

Follow the Leader
? One of the nation's premier offensive players, Jermaine Taylor has led the Knights in scoring in all four of their games this season. He is averaging 20.0 points per game. A year ago, he led the team in points in 23 of 31 contests.

The Takeover
? Taylor scored just two points in the first half at New Mexico on Nov. 22. He saved his best for last, totaling 11 points in the last five minutes of the contest as the Knights' rallied for a 72-71 win at The Pit. Taylor recorded six points during a 12-2 UCF run to close the contest. He also assisted on Chris Baez' game-winning 3-pointer.

The Score
? Last season, Taylor recorded one of the top campaigns in UCF history. He totaled 646 points, the most by a Knight since the program entered the Division I ranks in 1984. Taylor registered 20-point performances on 20 occasions. In Conference USA play, he averaged 21.4 points.

Preseason Pick
? In October, Taylor was one of five players selected to the All-Conference USA Preseason Team. The league's 12 head coaches pick the squad and Taylor became the first UCF player since the school joined the conference in 2005-06 to earn preseason accolades. He was joined on the team by guards Stefon Jackson of UTEP and Robert Vaden of UAB, forward Robert Dozier of Memphis and center Jerome Jordan of Tulsa.

Moving Up the Charts
? Taylor began the campaign 13th all-time at UCF with 1,167 points. In just four games this year, he has moved to 10th in career scoring at the school with 1,247 points. Dan Faison (1982-85) ranks ninth at UCF after totaling 1,283 points as a Knight. Taylor also ranks sixth on the program's Division I scoring register.