Men's Basketball Team Travels To UCF

Feb. 2, 2008

Orlando, Fla. -

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The University of Houston men's basketball team looks to win its third straight Conference USA road game when the Cougars travel to UCF this Saturday night. The Cougars enter the game with a 15-4 overall record this season after suffering their first league loss against top-ranked Memphis 89-77 last Wednesday night in a nationally televised game. UCF enters the game with an 11-9 overall record and are 4-2 in C-USA games this season after suffering two straight losses against SMU and UAB. The Knights fell 69-67 in overtime at SMU on Jan. 26 and 88-81 against UAB last Wednesday night.

After playing two overtime games against UCF last year, Houston enters Saturday night's game with a 3-2 record against UCF in a series that began on Jan. 14, 2006 when the Knights won a 66-56 decision in Houston. Houston won the next three meetings between the two schools. Houston began its winning streak with a 78-71 victory in Orlando on Feb. 15, 2006, and won a 71-52 triumph in the quarterfinals of the 2006 Conference USA Tournament. Last season, Houston won a 73-70 overtime decision in Hofheinz Pavilion on Jan. 24 before suffering a 75-72 overtime loss at UCF on Feb. 28.

In a battle of two teams that are evenly matched, UCF and Houston battled back and forth until the Knights' 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 could not 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.

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.

Picked to tie UAB for second place behind Memphis in a poll of Conference USA coaches, the Cougars are led by preseason All-Conference USA selection Robert McKiver, who averages 19.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

McKiver recorded his ninth 20-point game of the season against Memphis and has recorded three 30-point performances this season. He also has tied his own school record of nine three-point field goals in a game twice this season.

Dion Dowell averages 12.9 points per game and is the team's rebounding leader with a 7.5 average. The only player to start every game this season is senior forward Tafari Toney, who is averaging 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Lanny Smith leads the team in assists with 4.6 per game after recording 10 assists against Marshall and five assists in 11 games this season. Smith also scored a season-high of 12 points at Massachusetts and 11 points against Kentucky.

Freshman guard Brockeith Pane is averaging 8.6 points per game and has scored in double figures eighth times this season. Sophomore guard Kelvin Lewis is averaging 8.3 points and 3.7 rebounds. He netted a career-best 17 points against UTEP, 16 points against SMU and 10 at Rice. Houston's other freshman guard Zamal Nixon is averaging 7.2 points per game after netting seven points in his last two games against Marshall and Memphis.

UCF enters Saturday's night game looking to bounce back from two straight losses against SMU and UAB after opening Conference USA play with four straight wins against Southern Miss, Tulsa, East Carolina and UTEP. The Knights have played in four overtime games this season against Kansas State, Sam Houston State, Tulsa and SMU. This season, Memphis owns a 5-0 record in Conference USA games after defeating Tulsa 56-41 on Jan. 23.

UCF's top three scoring leaders are guards Jermaine Taylor, Dave Noel and Mike O'Donnell. Taylor leads the team with 21.1 points per game, while Noel averages 13.3 points and O'Donnell chips in 11.0 points and 3.1 assists per contest. Tony Davis averages 7.4 points and leads UCF in rebounding with 6.6 rebounds per contest, and Stanley Billings is averaging 5.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest. Senior Chip Cartwright averages 5.5 points and leads the team in assists with 4.15 per game. Kenrick Zondervan averages 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds.

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 30 points and Joey Dorsey equaled his career high with 22 rebounds to lead top-ranked Memphis to an 89-77 victory over Houston in Hofheinz Pavilion. The win equaled the best start in school history for the Tigers and snapped Houston's four-game winning streak.

Dion Dowell scored 23 points and Robert McKiver added 20 for the Cougars, who jumped out to an 11-4 lead after the first five minutes. Memphis worked its way back into the game and took a 16-14 lead on Willie Kemp's three-point jumper from the top of the key with 10 minutes left to play. The Tigers never trailed again despite Houston forcing them to commit a season-high 22 turnovers.

Memphis extended its lead to 11 points at halftime (46-35) and led by 19 points (56-37) before Houston used an 21-10 rally to pull to within eight on Brockeith Pane's lay-up to make the score 66-58 with 10:07 left to play. But that was as close as Houston could get. Robert Dozier added 21 points for the Tigers, who won their 39th straight regular season game.

In addition to Dowell and McKiver's combined 43 points, DaShaun Williams finished with a career-best 15 points in his first start of the season and Pane added 11 points off the bench.

Houston improved its record to 2-1 in road games after winning its first two Conference USA road contests against SMU and Rice. The lone loss this season came at Massachusetts on Jan. 2. The Cougars have a 2-1 record in neutral site games after finishing in fourth place at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Nov. 15-18. Houston won its final two games in the tournament over Marist and College of Charleston after suffering a 73-72 loss against VCU in the first game.

One constant factor in Houston's success under head coach Tom Penders is the ability to take care of the basketball. Houston leads Conference USA in turnover margin with an average of +6.5 per game. The Cougars are averaging just 11.5 turnovers per game after recording 11 turnovers against Marshall, 16 turnovers at Rice, 18 turnovers against UTEP and 8 at SMU. Houston has forced an average of 18.0 per game. Houston's ranks ninth nationally for fewest turnovers per game in the latest NCAA rankings with an 11.5 average.

Houston's eight turnovers at SMU marked the fifth game this season the Cougars have recorded nine or fewer turnovers in a game this season. UH set a school record with just two turnovers against Grambling State and had just eight turnovers against Charleston and Southern, along with nine against Kentucky. With its 11 turnovers against Marshall, Houston has recorded 13 or fewer turnovers 14 times overall this season. Houston also had 10 turnovers at Massachusetts and Texas Southern, 11 turnovers versus Memphis, Marist and Coastal Carolina, 12 turnovers against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and 13 turnovers against Middle Tennessee and Arizona.

The Cougars enters the UCF game leading Conference USA and ranked 17th nationally in free throw shooting with a .760 percentage after making 323 of their 425 free throws this season. The Cougars also rank fourth among C-USA teams in total free throws made this season. Individually, the Cougars boast the top three Conference USA individual free throw shooting leaders. Dion Dowell leads the league with a .905 percentage (38-42). Robert McKiver ranks second with a .865 percentage after making 93 of his 107 free throws this season. Lanny Smith ranks third with a .852 percentage after making 46 of his 54 free throws.

Houston made 22 of Its 24 free throws for a free throw percentage of .917 against Coastal Carolina. It marks the fourth time in the last three seasons Houston has shot 91 percent or better at the free throw line. The Cougars also made 93.3 percent (14-15) of its free throws at UCF on Feb. 28, 2007 and 92.9 percent (13-14) at Southern Miss on Feb. 19, 2007. Houston tied a school record in the semifinals of the 2006 Conference USA Tournament with a percentage of .950 (19-20) at Memphis on Mar. 10, 2006. In addition, the Cougars shot 80 percent against Kentucky and Toledo after making 28 of their 35 free throws against the Wildcats 20 of 25 free throws against the Rockets.

Houston forced 20 or more free throws in each four of their first five Conference USA games this season and eight times overall. The Cougars forced a season-high 29 turnovers by Rice, 23 by UTEP, 22 by Memphis and 20 at SMU. Before opening its Conference USA schedule, Houston forced 28 turnovers against Morehead State, 23 by Arkansas-Pine Bluff, along with 20 by Toledo and Grambling State. The Cougars just missed forcing 20 turnovers in three other games when VCU had 19, and Kentucky and Southern had 18 each.

The Cougars held Marshall to 32.8 percent (21-64) shooting from the field to mark the seventh time this season Houston has held its opponent under 40 percent shooting from the field. Houston held Southern to just 23.5 percent (12-21) shooting from the field, Grambling State to just 29.3 percent (17-58), Rice to 35.1 percent (20-57), Texas Southern to 35.7 (25-70) percent, Morehead State to 38.0 (19-50) percent and Marist to 38.2 (21-55) percent shooting.

Houston's record during the month of January fell to 4-3 following Wednesday night's game against Memphis. The Cougars opened the month dropping its final two non-conference games against Arizona and Massachusetts before winning their first four Conference USA games against SMU, UTEP, Rice and Marshall. The Cougars own an all-time record of 290-206 during games played in January.

Houston head coach Tom Penders enters the UCF game having coached in 1,002 NCAA Division I games during his 34-year coaching career. Penders tied a NCAA record by coaching at seven different schools when he came to Houston in 2004-05. He also coached at Tufts, Columbia, Fordham, Rhode Island, Texas and George Washington. Below is a list of most games coached by active NCAA Division 1 Coaches.

Tom Penders enters the UCF game with 599 career wins in his 34 years as a NCAA Division I head coach. There are only six active NCAA Division I coaches with 600 wins and he owns the eighth highest career victory total among the active NCAA Division I coaches. His 599 wins places him in 30th place for most victories among all-time NCAA Division I coaches.

University of Houston head basketball coach Tom Penders received the "Mr. Sportsman 2007" from Interfaith Charities, Inc. on Nov. 6 at the Houstonian Hotel. Each year Interfaith Charities honors an outstanding Houstonian for supporting IFC's purpose and leadership in the community. Proceeds from the dinner go directly to the IFC scholarship fund, which benefits a variety of Interfaith organizations from homes for the aged, to activities for inner-city schools to non-sectarian hospitals. Penders joins former UH coaches Guy V. Lewis, Bill Yeoman and Pat Foster as UH coaches who have been named Mr. Sportsman. Lewis was honored in 1970, while Yeoman received the award in 1976 and Foster earned the honor in 1992.

In his Nov. 5 Ford Minutes and Counting column, ESPN senior writer named Houston head coach Tom Penders among the five coaches doing an underrated job. Forde stated, "Tom Penders doesn't get the credit he deserves for turning the Houston Cougars into annual winners."

Seniors Dion Dowell and Robert McKiver recorded 20 points in the same game for the third time this season when Dowell led the Cougars with 23 points and McKiver netted 20. Previously, Dowell led the Cougars with 21 points and McKiver added 20 at SMU. The first time it happened was against Coastal Carolina when Dowell netted a game-high 22 points and McKiver tallied 21. Dowell has five 20-point performances overall this season, while McKiver leads Houston with eight 20-point games.

Robert McKiver enters the UCF game with 1,011 career points and became just the sixth two-year transfer and 41st player overall in school history to record 1,000 career points at Houston. The others were Ollie Taylor (1,231 points in 1968-70), Don Boldebuck (1,162 points in 1954-56), Gee Gervin (1,114 points in 1998-00), Richard Hollis (1,057 points in 1987-89) and Byron Smith (1,051 points in 1989-91).

Lanny Smith enters the UCF game listed in 23rd place among Houston's career scoring leaders with 1,193 points. Two seasons ago, he became the 40th Cougar to record 1,000 career points. He needs to score three points to pass Ted Luckenbill for 22nd place. Smith needs to score 48 more points to become one of the Top 20 scoring leaders in school history.

Smith also is ranked fourth among Houston's career leaders with 477 assists in 111 games during his collegiate career. He needs to hand out 26 more assists to pass Alvin Franklin for fourth place. He has averaged 4.2 assists per game throughout his career and that ranks ninth on the school's career list.

Freshman guard Brockeith Pane scored in double figures for the first time in 12 games when he scored 11 points off the bench against Memphis. Pane has scored in double figures during eight games overall this year. In addition to his three 20-point games, Pane scored 15 points against Morehead State and Marist, 12 points against Coastal Carolina and 10 versus Charleston.

Zamal Nixon's 24 points against Arizona marks the sixth time he has scored in double figures this season. He also registered 14 points and a career-best 7 assists against Middle Tennessee, 12 points against Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Grambling State, 11 points versus VCU and 10 points against Texas Southern. Nixon just missed scoring in double figures two other times when he tallied nine points against Southern and Marist.

Senior post Tafari Toney recorded his first double-double performance this season with 13 points and 14 rebounds against UTEP. He became the second Cougar to record a double-double performance this season.

Tafari Toney has pulled down 47 rebounds in Houston's last seven games. He grabbed six rebounds against Memphis and Marshall, four rebounds at Rice, 14 rebounds against UTEP, and 6 rebounds in each of Houston's three previous games. In addition to those five games, Toney also pulled down nine rebounds against Southern, eight rebounds against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Kentucky and Charleston. Toney also collected six rebounds versus Arizona, UMass and Marist. He has grabbed five or more rebounds 14 times this season, including Houston's last 10 games.

Junior center Marcus Cousin played 16 minutes against Marshall, 14 minutes at Rice, four minutes against UTEP and 17 minutes at SMU after returning to Houston's lineup against Arizona. Cousin sat out the previous four games with a foot injury.

Cousin recorded a season-best 10 points against Toledo, and that marked the third time this season he has scored in double figures this season. Cousin also scored 10 points against Coastal Carolina and Grambling State. He tallied nine points at Rice.

Cousin netted a career-best 11 points against Morgan State as a sophomore at Seton Hall.

Marcus Cousin grabbed six rebounds in 14 minutes of action at Rice, 5 rebounds in 13 minutes against Arizona and 4 rebounds versus Marshall. He pulled down a career-best of 10 rebounds against Morehead State in his UH debut. Cousin also grabbed eight rebounds against Toledo and Coastal Carolina. In between those two games, he pulled down seven rebounds against Middle Tennessee. UP NEXT
Following the UCF game, Houston returns to the friendly confines of Hofheinz Pavilion for a Conference USA game against Tulsa on Feb. 6 at 7:00 p.m.



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