March 5, 2008
HOUSTON - Celebrating their final regular-season home game at Hofheinz Pavilion, five University of Houston seniors combined for 58 points and 20 rebounds to help lead the Cougars to a 73-68 win over Conference USA rival UCF.
Forward Tafari Toney led the way with a career-high 19 points and added a game-high nine rebounds, while guard Lanny Smith chipped in with 16 points and four assists. It was the most points Smith scored since pouring in 21 at Missouri State on March 20, 2006, during the season finale.
Guard Robert McKiver recorded 15 points, while forward Dion Dowell hauled down six rebounds in the win. Guard Marcus Malone scored only five points, but it was his clutch 3-pointer in the waning seconds that iced the win for the Cougars.
In a game that went back-and-forth all night, saw 16 ties, 14 lead changes and never saw either team enjoy more than a six-point lead, UCF pulled to within 69-68 on Jermaine Taylor's layup with 49 seconds remaining. On the ensuing possession, rather than take some time off the clock, the Cougars raced down the floor and McKiver found Malone, who buried a 3-pointer that handed UH a four-point advantage with 35 seconds remaining.
UCF missed a 3-point attempt on its next possession but grabbed the offensive rebound and called timeout. However, Malone stole the ball from Taylor with only six seconds left and, after being fouled, junior guard DaShaun Williams capped the scoring by hitting one of two free throws.
All five seniors were recognized in pregame ceremonies, receiving standing ovations from the crowd of 4,516.
UCF guard Mike O'Donnell recorded 19 points, including five 3-pointers, to lead the Knights in the loss. Guard Jermaine Taylor scored 16 points, while guard Dave Noel added 11 points and a game-high eight assists. Forward Kenrick Zondervan topped the Knights with eight rebounds.
The two teams battled to a 31-31 draw at halftime. However, Smith gave the Cougars the momentum heading into the locker room with a 3-pointer at the top of the key at the buzzer.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 22-7 overall and 11-4 in C-USA games. The win also clinched the No. 3 seed for the Cougars during the 2008 C-USA Championship at FedExForum on March 12-16.
UH opens play at the 2008-C-USA Tournament at 2:30 p.m., Thursday against the winner of the No. 6-No. 11 game.
Before the Cougars head to the postseason, though, they must wrap up the regular season at 8:05 p.m. (CST), Saturday, when they face C-USA rival UTEP at the Haskins Center in El Paso. Fans can hear the game live on 790 AM The Sports Animal with Tom Franklin calling the play-by-play action and Carl Dukes providing color analysis.
Fans always can follow live stats on the Internet by clicking on the Gametracker link at UHCougars.com.