Knights to Host USF at UCF Arena Saturday

Dec. 5, 2008

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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - After five-consecutive games away from home, the UCF men's basketball team will return to the UCF Arena on Saturday when the Knights host cross-state foe USF at 7 p.m. The Bulls will be playing in Orlando for the first time since the 2001-02 campaign.

Head coach Kirk Speraw's Knights (3-3) began the 2008-09 season with five of their first six contests away from Orlando. The stretch on the road included an impressive 72-71 victory at New Mexico and a pair of games at the Cancun Challenge in Mexico.

UCF is led by senior guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla.), who enters the contest averaging 18.2 points per game.

The Bulls are 3-2 this season. USF's losses have come by a combined three points to Virginia and UAB.

SunTrust is serving as the presenting sponsor of the game. At halftime, SunTrust will be hosting a "Go for the Gold" promotion where one lucky fan can win up to $5,000.

Season tickets, which begin at just $99, are still available. To order your season tickets today, and to learn more about the Fastbreak Club and other premium seating options, contact the UCF ticket sales office at (407) UCF-1000.

Tickets for the game are available via Ticketmaster at Ticketmaster.com and (407) 839-3900. The UCF Arena box office will also be open on Saturday prior to the contest.

The first 2,000 UCF students to enter the arena Saturday will receive a free Knightmare t-shirt. Students are admitted free to all UCF home games with a valid school ID.

USF-UCF will be televised in the southeast on CSS, with Matt Stewart handling play-by-play duties and Shane Power providing color commentary. In central Florida, Bright House Sports Network will broadcast the game live.

Fans can also listen to the contest on the UCF-ISP Sports Network and 740 AM in Orlando. Marc Daniels will have the call from courtside and will be joined by former UCF guard Mike O'Donnell. Pregame coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. Live statistics will be available at UCFAthletics.com.

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 USF
? In their last outing, the Bulls fell 78-77 in overtime at UAB Wednesday. USF led by 13 points with six minutes to play, but the Blazers rallied for the win. Jesus Verdejo hit six 3-pointers and led USF with 26 points. On the season, he is the team's top scorer at 17.6 points per game, followed by Dominique Jones (16.0).
? USF is averaging 65.2 points per game, while limiting foes to just 56.8. The squad is shooting 43.3 percent from the floor.

Series Information
? UCF and the Bulls will be meeting for the second-consecutive season. On Dec. 1, 2007, host USF recorded a 75-67 win over the Knights behind 30 points from Dominique Jones. The Bulls finished the game with a 45-33 edge on the glass. Jermaine Taylor led the Knights with 20 points and Tony Davis established a school single-game record with eight blocks.
? The Bulls have an 18-4 advantage in the all-time series. The squads have not played in Orlando since the Bulls held on for an 84-79 win at the old UCF Arena on Jan. 29, 2002. Prior to last season's meeting, the 2002 tilt was the last matchup between the two schools.
? UCF will be hosting a BIG EAST program for the second-straight year. Last season, Connecticut escaped the UCF Arena with an 85-82 victory over the Knights.

Last Time Out
? Despite 22 points and 10 rebounds from Jermaine Taylor, UCF could not complete a late rally and fell 71-65 to Morehead State Sunday at the Cancun Challenge. The Knights, who trailed by 14 points with 5:39 to play, got within two with 41 seconds left in the game, but Morehead State made four free throws to hang on for the win.

Up Next for the Knights
? Due to final exams, UCF's next game is set for Friday, Dec. 12 against Florida Tech at home. The Knights have a 23-2 edge in the all-time series.

Road Tested
? UCF's young team spent nearly the entire month of November on the road to begin the year. The squad opened the campaign on Nov. 16 at home against North Carolina A&T. Two days later, the Knights began a string of five-consecutive games away from the Sunshine State at Valparaiso and then played at New Mexico. After meeting host Ole Miss, UCF headed to Mexico for a pair of games in the Cancun Challenge last weekend.

Youth Movement
? With seven freshmen and 10 underclassmen seeing time for the Knights, UCF has 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).
? 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.

Home Cooking
? The Knights have excelled offensively since the program moved into the UCF Arena a year ago. In 17 contests at the facility, UCF is averaging 81.1 points. At the arena, the Knights are shooting 48.5 percent from the floor and 39.3 percent from 3-point range.
? In 2007-08, the Knights had a pair of 100-point games at home, both against Conference USA opponents. UCF defeated UTEP, 109-80, and also posted a 110-75 win over East Carolina.
? The Knights are 13-4 at the UCF Arena since the building opened.

Home Court Advantage
? Fans flocked to the UCF Arena during the Knights' inaugural campaign at the venue a year ago. A school record for attendance was established as 78,253 fans attended 16 home contests for an average of 4,891 per game. UCF posted the fifth-largest attendance increase in the nation. In 2006-07, an average of 2,706 spectators attended the program's games at the old UCF Arena.

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.

A Tough Start
? Not only did the Knights play five of their first six games to begin the year away from home, the squad had to face three teams that won at least 20 games and played in the postseason on the road. 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 Nov. 26. The Rebels also won 24 games in 2007-08 and played in the NIT.

A Milestone
? In his 16th year at UCF, Kirk Speraw posted a milestone win versus South Dakota State last Saturday. The victory served as the 250th during his tenure at UCF. Speraw is 250-205 at the school.
? 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 Fresh Prince
? Early in the year, it appears that UCF has found scorer to complement Jermaine Taylor. Through six contests, Isaac Sosa ranks second on the team in scoring at 9.3 points per game. The freshman is shooting 48.9 percent overall and 40.0 percent from 3-point range. A native of Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, Sosa totaled 19 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field last Saturday in UCF's win over South Dakota State at the Cancun Challenge.
? As a senior last season, Sosa received Florida Class 1A All-State First Team honors at Grandview Prep in south Florida. He averaged 19.5 points and 6.5 assists. This past summer, Sosa played for Puerto Rico at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Argentina. Sosa averaged 13.8 points and 3.2 boards at the event.

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 Young and the Restless
? Last season, Taylor Young averaged 6.0 minutes in 24 contests for the Knights as a redshirt freshman. Kirk Speraw used Young as a spark off the bench and he mostly played shooting guard. This year, Young has a bigger role with the team. He has started all six of squad's games in 2008-09, including the last two at point guard. In games against South Dakota State and Morehead State at the Cancun Challenge, Young averaged 10.0 points, 2.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists. On the year, he is averaging 5.2 points and 2.8 assists.
? The Orlando native attended The First Academy and was honored as the 2005-06 Florida Class 2A Player of the Year after averaging 25.0 points and 5.7 assists as a senior.

Off the Block
? Last year at USF, Tony Davis set a school record with eight blocked shots. Entering Saturday's contest, the junior needs just one swat to enter the top 10 on UCF's career blocks list. Davis has blocked 54 shots during his time as a Knight. Pat Crocklin (1985-89) ranks 10th all-time at the school with 55 rejections.

Brand New
? Including redshirt freshman Chris Baez, rookies have been responsible for 40.5 percent of UCF's points this year. Thanks to Isaac Sosa (10 3-pointers) and Baez (6), freshmen have made 43.5 percent of the team's triples.

Fair and Balanced
? A year ago, three Knights - Mike O'Donnell (34.3), Jermaine Taylor (33.5) and Dave Noel (33.2) - all averaged over 30 minutes per game. Early in 2008-09, Kirk Speraw is going deep as Taylor (31.0) is the lone Knight averaging over 22 minutes per contest. With a young team, Speraw is rotating more players this year than in the past. Twelve UCF players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game.

? UCF's bench is averaging 25.8 points per game this year. In the Knights' lone home game this year, UCF's reserves accounted for 41 points in the 81-62 win over North Carolina A&T on Nov. 16. The team's second-leading scorer Isaac Sosa (9.3 ppg) has not started a contest.

The Knightmare Returns
? Saturday's contest will mark the return of the Knightmare. When the program made its debut at the UCF Arena a year ago, the UCF student section was dubbed the Knightmare. Prior to the USF game, 2,000 black t-shirts will be distributed to students.

Gone But Not Forgotten
? Early in the season, the Knights are working to fill the void left following the graduation of two of the best guards in program history. Mike O'Donnell was a three-year starter at point guard and Dave Noel started for two campaigns at shooting guard.
? O'Donnell averaged 11.9 points and hit 75 treys last season. The Largo, Fla., native finished his three-year career at UCF second in school history with 195 3-pointers. A Conference USA All-Defensive Team selection, Noel started all 31 contests at shooting guard and averaged 13.3 points and 4.2 boards in 2007-08. He is currently starting for Reno in the National Basketball Association D-League.
? Last year, Noel and O'Donnell accounted for 33.3 percent of UCF's scoring and 49.7 percent of the team's triples.

Jermaine Taylor Notes
In the Lead
? One of the nation's premier offensive players, Jermaine Taylor has led the Knights in scoring in five of the tream's six games in 2008-09. He is averaging 18.2 points per game. A year ago, he led the team in points in 23 of 31 contests.

To the Top
? Taylor began the campaign 13th all-time at UCF in career scoring. After six games this year, he has moved to 10th on the list with 1,276 points. Against USF, Taylor could possibly move to eighth all-time. Dan Faison (1982-85) is ninth with 1,283 points and Pat Crocklin (1985-89) is eighth on the list (1,295). Taylor also ranks sixth on the program's Division I scoring register.

All-Around Success
? This season, Taylor is exhibiting his all-around game. In addition to leading the team in scoring, he has been UCF's top rebounder in 2008-09, grabbing 6.7 boards per contest. Taylor also ranks first on the team in blocks with four and is third with 15 assists.

? Taylor has certainly enjoyed playing at the UCF Arena as he is averaging 22.6 points in 17 contests at the facility. He has connected on 50.5 percent of his field goal attempts inside the 10,000-seat venue and is shooting 40.0 percent from deep at the building.