Dec. 21, 2008
Complete Release in PDF Format
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will open a six-game homestand Monday, hosting Valparaiso. Tip-off at the UCF Arena is set for 7 p.m.
The Knights (5-4) are 3-0 this season at home. Head coach Kirk Speraw's squad is averaging 87.3 points at the UCF Arena.
On the season, senior guard Jermaine Taylor (Tavares, Fla.) is the team's top scorer at 20.3 points per game. In Orlando, the shooting guard is averaging 29.7 points.
Valparaiso is 3-7 in 2008-09.
Tickets for the contest are available at Ticketmaster.com and (407) 839-3900. The UCF Arena box office will also be open Monday before the game. Students are admitted free to all UCF home games with a valid school ID.
Monday is serving as Hispanic Heritage Night at the UCF Arena as the Knights' roster includes freshman guard Isaac Sosa (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico).
A UCF Basketball Outback Steakhouse Four-Pack is currently available for only $50 by calling the UCF ticket sales office at (407) UCF-1000. The four-pack offers the best seat available at the UCF Arena for the Knights' Jan. 10 contest with national power Memphis. The package also includes tickets to UCF's Conference USA games with SMU (Jan. 28), Houston (Feb. 4) and East Carolina (March 7).
UCF-Valparaiso will be aired live on the UCF-ISP Sports Network and 740 AM in Orlando. Marc Daniels will handle the play-by-play duties on the broadcast and will be joined by former UCF guard Mike O'Donnell. Pregame coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. Live video and 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.
Valparaiso faced top-ranked North Carolina Saturday in Chicago and jumped out to a 12-3 lead, but the Tar Heels eventually pulled away for an 85-63 victory. Urule Igbavboa led the Crusaders with 16 points. On the season, he is averaging a team-best 10.6 points and 5.7 boards. Michael Rogers is averaging 10.3 points and 4.2 rebounds.
The contest with the Crusaders will complete a home-and-home series between the two programs. On Nov. 18, the Knights fell 69-52 at Valparaiso. The game served as UCF's second tilt of the season. Jermaine Taylor totaled a game-high 18 points for the Knights, who shot just 30.4 percent overall for the game. The hosts led 30-21 at the break, and shot 50.0 percent from the field after halftime. Urule Igbavboa paced the Crusaders with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
Valparaiso has a 2-1 edge in the all-time series. Before this year, the teams met on Jan. 5, 1989, and the Crusaders posted a 90-89 win over UCF in the opening round of the Tangerine Bowl tournament in Winter Park.
The Crusaders are in their second year in the Horizon League. The Knights are 1-5 all-time against current Horizon League programs.
Last Time Out
Facing Florida in Jacksonville, the Knights fell 89-61 Saturday. Three UCF players, led by Jermaine Taylor (13 points), finished with double-figures in scoring. The Gators, who are receiving votes in both national polls, shot 61.8 percent in the opening half and led 52-33 at intermission. Florida had a 19-6 rebounding edge in the opening half, with nine of the team's boards coming on the offensive end.
Up Next for the Knights
After a break for Christmas, the Knights will return to action on Monday, Dec. 29, hosting the UCF Holiday Classic. The squad will open the event against Penn. The following day, the Knights will meet either Campbell or Chicago State.
The Knights, who have enjoyed great success since the UCF Arena opened last fall, enter the game with Valparaiso with a seven-game home winning streak. The team is off to a 3-0 start the venue this season. The Knights have won six-consecutive non-conference contests at home.
Since the UCF Arena opened, UCF is 15-4 at the facility.
This season, the Knights are excelling offensively at home. The squad is averaging 87.3 points per game at the UCF Arena. In three home contests, the Knights are shooting 51.8 percent overall and 75.0 percent at the line.
Last season, UCF averaged 81.1 points at the arena, compared to 63.6 percent on the road.
On the Rebound
This season, the Knights have rebounded from their losses as the squad has not suffered back-to-back defeats. In its last contest, UCF fell to Florida in Jacksonville Saturday.
Sharing is Caring
The Knights currently rank second in Conference USA, averaging 15.1 assists per game. Against Florida on Saturday, UCF totaled 17 assists on 22 made field goals. In its last three contests, the team averaged 19.3 assists.
The Knights are eager to start a six-game homestand. Six of the team's nine contests in 2008-09 have been away from Orlando.
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 (Nov. 29-30).
UCF's large freshman class has made an immediate impact this season. Six true freshmen and one redshirt freshman have seen time for the Knights this season.
The rookies have played 790 out of 1,800 possible minutes (43.8 percent) during the year.
The freshmen have accounted for 39.7 percent of the team's scoring this season.
Against Florida on Saturday, UCF's freshmen recorded 60.6 percent of the team's points. The rookies combined for 37 points. Chris Baez led the way with 12 points, followed by A.J. Rompza with 11.
The Comeback Kids
The Knights have trailed at halftime in three of their five wins this season. Most recently, USF led UCF by two at the break on Dec. 6. The host Knights outscored the Bulls 45-35 in the second half to post an eight-point victory.
At New Mexico on Nov. 22, UCF trailed by nine points with just 4:24 remaining in the game but came back to take a 72-71 win when Chris Baez nailed a triple with four seconds on the clock. Against South Dakota State on Nov. 29, UCF trailed by 10 points two minutes into the second half, but rallied to post a 66-64 victory.
A.J. Rompza began his college career in less than stellar fashion. The freshman shot just 23.1 percent overall in UCF's first six games of the year. During that span, he connected on just 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) of his attempts from 3-point range. Rompza has turned things around as of late.
In the team's last three games, he shot 53.3 percent from the floor and made 6-of-8 (75.0 percent) triples. Against Florida Saturday, Rompza went 3-of-3 from deep and scored 11 points.
On the season, Rompza is averaging 5.4 points and a team-high 4.4 assists. His assist mark ranks fifth in Conference USA.
The nation's second-tallest player, Jakub Kusmieruk has shown great improvement as his freshman year has progressed. The 7-foot-4 center averaged 6.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in UCF's last two games. He shot 44.4 percent from the field and made all four of his free-throw attempts in 8.5 minutes per game. Against Florida on Saturday, he scored six points and had three rebounds - all on the offensive end - in eight minutes.
Only one player in the country is taller than Kusmieruk: 7-foot-5 Will Foster of Gonzaga. A native of Poland, Kusmieruk moved to the United States prior to his sophomore year of high school and attended The John Carroll School in Maryland.
This season, Kusmieruk has appeared in five contests and is averaging 2.4 points and 1.4 rebounds. Five of his seven boards have been offensive.
Jermaine Taylor Notes
In the Lead
One of the nation's premier offensive players, Jermaine Taylor is currently second in Conference USA, averaging 20.3 points per game. The shooting guard has led the Knights in scoring in eight of the team's nine contests in 2008-09.
Taylor has been stellar at home this season as the senior is averaging 29.7 points at the UCF Arena. In three games, he is shooting 59.3 percent from the floor, 41.2 percent from deep and 92.3 percent at the free-throw line. Taylor has also dished out an average of 3.4 assists in Orlando.
To the Top
Taylor began the campaign 13th all-time at UCF in career scoring. After nine games, he has moved to eighth on the list with 1,350 points. Former teammate Josh Peppers is seventh with 1,376 points. Taylor also ranks fifth on the program's Division I scoring register.
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 5.6 boards per contest. Taylor also ranks first on the team in blocks with nine and is third with 23 assists.