Jan. 7, 2008
Complete Release in PDF Format
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (www.ucfathletics.com) - After facing the most challenging non-league schedule in program history, the UCF men's basketball team will open Conference USA play on Tuesday at Southern Miss. Tip-off from Reed Green Coliseum is set for 9 p.m. Eastern.
In non-league play, the Knights faced two ranked teams and three squads that were receiving votes in national polls. Now the squad will focus on C-USA play.
A year ago in its second campaign in the league, head coach Kirk Speraw's team went 11-5 in league games to finish second in the 12-squad conference. Following the regular season, Speraw was named the C-USA Coach of the Year.
In 2007-08, UCF is 7-7. Southern Miss enters Tuesday's game at 8-6 overall.
The game will be televised live regionally on CSS. Joe Block will handle the play-by-play and Jan van Breda Kolff will provide the color commentary.
In Orlando, Marc Daniels will provide the call of the game on the UCF ISP Sports Network and its flagship station, 740 AM. Audio will also be available at www.ucfathletics.com.
Kirk Speraw (Iowa, 1980) is in his 15th season as UCF's head coach. He owns a 238-194 record at UCF. In his 18th year as a head coach, he has a 320-215 mark. In 2006-07, he was named the Conference USA Coach of the Year.
Larry Eustachy (Long Beach State, 1979) is 49-55 in his fourth season with the Golden Eagles. He has a 309-200 mark in 17 years as a head coach.
UCF and Southern Miss will be meeting for the third time on the hardwood and the all-time seires is tied 1-1. Both teams have won at home.
A year ago, the squads met in Orlando and the Knights held on for a 59-56 victory on Feb. 21. Mike O'Donnell scored 16 points in the win on 5-of-10 shooting from deep. Lavell Payne scored 14 points and Josh Peppers added 12 points for the Knights. Jeremy Wise paced Southern Miss with 22 points.
The programs met for the first time on Feb. 8, 2006, in Hattiesburg. Southern Miss outscored the Knights 38-26 after intermission and posted a 59-51 win. Mike O'Donnell led all players with 19 points.
In two contests against Southern Miss, O'Donnell is averaging 17.5 points. He has hit eight treys versus the Golden Eagles.
ABOUT SOUTHERN MISS
Southern Miss is 5-1 at home this season. On Friday, the Golden Eagles fell 61-56 at Savannah State.
The team is averaging 76.4 points per game in 2007-08, while limiting its opponents to 64.6 points. Southern Miss paces Conference USA in rebounding (42.1) and rebound margin (+9.1).
Jeremy Wise ranks fifth in the league in scoring at 18.9 points per game. Gijo Bain is among the C-USA leaders in rebounds (7.8) and blocks (2.7) per game.
UP NEXT FOR THE KNIGHTS
UCF makes its Conference USA home debut at the new UCF Arena on Saturday, hosting Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane have a 3-2 edge in the all-time series.
LAST TIME OUT
Despite a game-high 22 points from Jermaine Taylor, UCF fell 60-58 in overtime at Sam Houston State on Saturday. The Bearkats have won 44-straight non-league contests at home, the second-longest streak in the nation.
UCF had the chance to win the game with 21 seconds left in regulation, but Kenrick Zondervan missed a contested dunk. Dave Noel added 13 points for the Knights.
LEADERS OF THE NEW SCHOOL
Since joining Conference USA with five other programs prior to the 2005-06 campaign, UCF has recorded 18 league victories, the most among the new members. UTEP (17), Tulsa (15), Rice (14), Marshall (12) and SMU (7) follow UCF.
With the move, the Knights have faced the biggest increase in competition among the new schools, having previously competed in the Atlantic Sun Conference. In 2006-07, UCF went 11-5 in C-USA play to finish second in the 12-team league.
UCF's 2007-08 schedule is without a doubt the toughest in program history. Five of UCF's first eight opponents in 2007-08 participated in the postseason a year ago. The Knights have already faced Nevada (NCAA - twice), Villanova (NCAA), Kansas State (NIT) and Ole Miss (NIT) this year.
Villanova (No. 19) and Kansas State (No. 18) were both ranked when meeting the Knights. Nevada (Nov. 11), Ole Miss and Sam Houston State were all garnering votes in national polls when those squads played UCF.
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).
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
The combined record of the seven squads that UCF has lost to in 2007-08 is 73-22. Villanova (11-2), Kansas State (9-4), USF (10-5), Ole Miss (13-0), Nevada (8-5), Connecticut (10-3) and Sam Houston State (12-1) all have winning records.
UCF's seven losses this year have come by an average of five points. Three of those contests were decided by three or fewer points and two defeats have come in overtime.
The Knights fell to No. 18 Kansas State and traditional power Connecticut by a combined five points.
NO HALF STEPPING
UCF is 7-0 when leading at halftime in 2007-08. In the last two years, the squad is 24-4 when taking an advantage into intermission.
FOLLOW THE LEADER
Jermaine Taylor has paced the Knights in scoring in 11-straight contests. On the season, he is averaging a team-high 19.9 points, which ranks fourth in Conference USA. Taylor has scored at least 20 points in five-straight games and has registered 20-point performances 10 times in 2007-08.
He has scored at least 18 points in 11-consecutive contests.
In the Knights' last five games, Jermaine Taylor is averaging 24.0 points per game. During the span, he is shooting 50 percent from the field and 80 percent from the free-throw line.
SHOW AND IMPROVE
Each season at UCF, Jermaine Taylor has shown great improvement on the court. This year, the junior is one of Conference USA's top players, averaging 19.9 points and 4.4 rebounds.
In 2006-07, he came off of the bench in all 31 of UCF's games and averaged 12.7 points and 3.2 rebounds. 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.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
In just his third campaign with the Knights, Jermaine Taylor already ranks 10th all-time at UCF with 117 career 3-pointers. His former teammate Troy Lindbeck (2002-06) is ninth with 120 treys.
Taylor's ascension to the career list is impressive, considering he only hit 17 triples as a freshman in 2005-06.
GETTING TO THE LINE
In 31 games last year, Jermaine Taylor made 76 trips to the free-throw line, hitting 54 foul shots. Through 14 contests in 2007-08, Taylor has already been to the charity stripe 60 times. He is 46-of-60 (76.7) at the line this season.
ROAD TO RICHES
UCF has played just three road games in 2007-08, but Jermaine Taylor has enjoyed his time away from Orlando. He is averaging 23.0 points in the Knights' away games.
Taylor is shooting 52 percent overall on the road.
UCF is starting three guards in 2007-08 and the trio of perimeter players - Mike O'Donnell, Dave Noel and Jermaine Taylor - have accounted for 60.1 percent of the Knights' points. Taylor (19.9) paces the Knights in scoring, followed by Noel (12.9) and O'Donnell (10.3).
The three players have combined to make 86 of UCF's 100 3-pointers this season.
NO REST FOR MOD
Mike O'Donnell established a new career-high by playing 44 minutes in UCF's overtime contest at Sam Houston State on Saturday. O'Donnell leads UCF, averaging 34.4 minutes per contest this season.
He has played at least 35 minutes in eight of UCF's 14 contests in 2007-08.
GETTING TO THE GLASS
Tony Davis grabbed a career-best 13 boards at Sam Houston State. The sophomore is averaging a team-high 6.6 rebounds this year.
In UCF's last three contests, Davis is averaging 9.7 rebounds.
As a freshman last season, Tony Davis recorded just 15 blocked shots in 31 games. In only 12 contests in 2007-08, Davis has already recorded 19 swats.
At USF on Dec. 1, Davis established a program single-game record with eight blocks.
In recent years, Dave Noel has been known as UCF's top defender. This season, the senior guard has been exhibiting a well-rounded game.
He is averaging 12.9 points and 4.4 boards while shooting 52.2 percent overall and 45.9 percent from 3-point range.
Dave Noel is one of the best free-throw shooters in school history. In his third season with the squad after transferring from UNC-Wilmington, he boasts an .831 free-throw percentage (177-213), which ranks third all-time at UCF.
This season, Noel is shooting at an 82.7 percent clip from the line.
TAKING THE CHARITY
After finishing last season ranked second in Conference USA and 37th nationally in free-throw percentage (85.4), Dave Noel had a slow start at the line in 2007-08. Noel began the season by making just 11-of-17 (64.7 percent) of his attempts in the squad's first six games of the year.
Following the slow start, he has been nearly perfect at the charity stripe. In UCF's last eight games, he is 32-of-35 (91.4 percent) at the line.
MIKE PLAYS BIG
During his collegiate career, Mike O'Donnell has played in two leagues - the ACC and Conference USA. This season, the senior point guard has proved that he can compete against the BIG EAST's best.
Against No. 19 Villanova, USF and Connecticut, he averaged 18.0 points. Facing the BIG EAST programs, O'Donnell drained 14 3-pointers and shot 46.7 percent from deep.
In the Knights' contest with Connecticut on Dec. 30, he hit six 3-pointers and finished with 20 points.