March 5, 2005
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Junior Anthony Williams recorded a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 10 rebounds to lift the UCF men's basketball team to a 66-61 Atlantic Sun Championship semifinal victory over No. 3 Belmont at the Curb Event Center on Friday evening.
No. 2 UCF (23-8) advances to the title game on Saturday for the third consecutive season and will face top-seeded Gardner-Webb, who topped Jacksonville, 77-76, in the semifinals.
Senior Gary Johnson hit four three-pointers for UCF on his way to a game-high 17 points.
Belmont (14-16) trailed the entire game, but got within six points with 1:42 to play when Dan Oliver hit two foul shots. The Golden Knights then turned the ball over, but the Bruins were unable to score on their next possession when Williams blocked Josh Goodwin's layup.
"I am real proud of our guys effort," said UCF head coach Kirk Speraw. "You have to give Belmont credit for their effort and intensity to get back into the ballgame. I think Anthony's [Williams] effort for us was real critical. That was a battle in there."
Johnson and Peppers combined for nine points as UCF opened the game with an 11-2 run. Johnson drained two triples during the spurt and found a cutting Peppers in the paint for a traditional three-point play.
The Golden Knights pushed the lead to 10 at the 10:27 mark after junior Troy Lindbeck canned a jumper. Belmont got within two when Nick Otis hit a trey, but UCF closed the half on 12-2 run that included nine points from Williams.
Peppers finished with 13 points in the win as UCF shot 52.2 percent from the floor for the game and 40.9 percent from three-point range. Senior Kingsley Edwards chipped in with 12 points, nine boards and five assists.
When Edwards found Peppers for a backdoor lob dunk with 14:22 to go in the second half, the Golden Knights led by 15. The Bruins came within seven points with under four minutes to go, but Edwards quieted the home crowd, hitting desperation three as the shot clock expired to push the UCF edge to 60-50.
The Golden Knights have reeled off seven straight victories and have won 11 of their last 12. All-time, UCF is 3-3 in A-Sun Championship finals.
Brian Collins paced Belmont with 14 points. Goodwin, Justin Hare and Otis all recorded 10 points. The Bruins shot 38.5 percent for the game.
The championship game is slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday and will air live on ESPN2. The UCF ISP Sports Network and its flagship station 740-THE TEAM (AM) will also air the contest. Marc Daniels will have the call from courtside.