Feb. 28, 2007
In a battle of two teams that are evenly matched, UCF and the University of Houston men's basketball team battled back and forth until the Golden Knights' junior guard Mike O'Donnell nailed a three-point shot with 25 seconds remaining in the extra period.
Houston had just gone up, 70-67, when Robert McKiver hit a three-point shot just right of the key with 1:44 left to play. But, UCF came right back and pulled to within one when Dave Noel grabbed Josh Peppers' missed three-point try from the right baseline and made a lay-up.
On Houston's next possession, the Cougars worked the shot clock down, but couldn't get a clean look at the basket when Oliver Lafayette was forced to take a three-point shot from the top of the key.
The Golden Knights grabbed the rebound and Noel penetrated into the middle of the lane before hitting O'Donnell on the left wing for the deciding basket.
After O'Donnell nailed the shot, Houston worked the ball to Dion Dowell in the right corner. Dowell's shot came up short and Peppers grabbed the defensive rebound. Lafayette quickly fouled him, but it was his fifth and he was forced to sit out the remainder of the game.
Peppers made both of his free throws to give UCF a 74-70 lead with 13 seconds left. McKiver scored Houston's final points when he made both of his free throws with six seconds left.
Then, he fouled Chip Cartwright, who made the second of his two free throws to give the Golden Knights a 75-72 victory.
"This was an incredible game that went down to the wire," Houston head coach Tom Penders said. "We fought and scratched all night, but in the end, UCF made a couple of shots down the stretch, and we came up empty. You have to give them credit for a great effort."
Houston jumped out to an early 10-5 lead in the first four minutes of the game and extended led by as many as 10 points in the first half, 26-16, with 7:31 remaining in the opening half.
But, the Golden Knights took advantage of five Cougar turnovers, and closed the half with a 14-6 run to pull to within two 32-30. Dowell answered with his only three-point field goal of the night from the right wing before O'Donnell closed the opening period with a two-point jumper from the top of the key, giving the Cougars a slim 35-32 lead at halftime.
"When we executed our offense, we would hit some wide open shots," Penders said. "But in the second half, when UCF double-teamed (Robert McKiver), we just didn't make our shots."
In the second half, Dowell made two free throws to extend Houston's lead to 37-32. But, the Golden Knights answered with Lavell Payne making three of his four free throws on UCF's next two possessions.
After McKiver missed a jump shot, Jermaine Taylor nailed a three-point shot from the left wing to give UCF a 38-37 lead.
The two teams fought back and forth the rest of the way, as there were eight lead changes and nine ties the remainder of the half.
UCF held a 63-61 lead with 11 seconds left in regulation when Charlie Jones, who made his first start of the season and played the entire 45 minutes, hit Jahmar Thorpe for a slam dunk to force the overtime period.
In the extra period, there were another two lead changes and two more ties before O'Donnell put UCF up for good with his three-point shot from the left win.
The win helps UCF clinch a second-place finish in the regular season standings, while Houston enters the final weekend one game ahead of Rice for third place.
The Cougars enter Saturday's game against UTEP with a 15-14 overall record and a 9-6 league record.
"The difference in the game tonight was their crowd," Penders said. "I just hope we get the same type of crowd support for our game against UTEP Saturday night. We really need it and we are honoring two seniors, Oliver Lafayette and Jahmar Thorpe, who have represented this University well and with a lot of class. They certainly deserve for our fans to come out and show their appreciation to them."
The Cougars will play the Miners at 7:00 p.m. at Hofheinz Pavilion. If the Cougars win, they would clinch a third-place finish, the best C-USA finish in school history and set a new school record with their 10th C-USA win this season.