Win at The Pit gets good reviews for UCF

If you are wondering how good Central Florida is prior to tonight's game against Ole Miss at Tad Smith Coliseum, this score should let you know they're quite capable. UCF beat New Mexico in The Pit in Albuquerque 72-71 last Saturday.

Some have called it one of the most significant wins in UCF history. The Albuquerque Journal called it one of the biggest upsets ever at The Pit.

The Knights also own a home win over North Carolina A&T along with a road loss at Valparaiso.

UCF is outscoring opponents by an average of 68.3-67.3. Preseason All-Conference USA pick Jermaine Taylor leads the team with 21.3 points per contest and is the only UCF player averaging double-digit points. Taylor also leads the squad in rebounding with 6.7 per game.

Kirk Speraw is in his 16th season as the team's head coach. He led the Knights to a 16-15 record last year and enters Wednesday's game with a 249-203 worksheet at UCF.

The two programs met for the first time last season with Ole Miss earning a 76-67 victory on the road. Chris Warren cored a team-high 18 points in his hometown of Orlando to lead the Rebels.

David Huertas is off to a terrific start this season. The junior guard is averaging a team-high 22.5 points, second best among Southeastern Conference players. He has scored 20 or more points in three of the four contests, including a season-high 27 in the Rebels' win over South Alabama. He ranks among the SEC leaders in points, three-pointers (3.5/game), field-goal percentage (50.0, 27-of-54) and minutes played (35.0/game) after four games.

Warren is also doing his part to lift the team while some of the younger players catch on. The sophomore is averaging 34.2 minutes per game and his 19.8 points per contest is second on the team and fourth among SEC players.

"You always have to look to your upperclassmen to carry the load while the younger guys figure it out," UM Coach Andy Kennedy said. "That's certainly been amplified with the goings on the last couple of weeks with us. They're asked to make plays for us, and that will probably continue to be the case for a while."

Kennedy said the Rebels must continue to improve in all phases.

"We've got to find a way to be more productive on both ends of the floor, especially defensively," he said. "That's where we're really breaking down. People have hurt us inside. Then offensively we've got to find some sort of rhythm. We've got to help them by putting them into position to be successful, and then they've got to help us by doing their jobs."

Sophomore Malcolm White has struggled at times, and is averaging only 28 percent shooting with most of his shots obviously in the paint. He's rebounding 5.5 a game and is playing 25 minutes.

"Little bit of both at times," said Kennedy on whether he's taking bad shots or just missing shots. "Malcolm is going through a little bit of what David (Huertas) did early last year. He's so anxious and out of rhythm. He needs to have a game where he makes a couple of shots and relaxes a little bit. He's put a little pressure on himself. His attitude's been great. His energy's good. We've just got to keep working."

Some other Rebel hoops notes from Joey Jones, UM athletics media relations:

*** In each of the Rebels' three wins, they have forced more turnovers than they have committed, while in their one loss they tied Utah with 16 turnovers apiece. In fact, Ole Miss has forced 15 or more turnovers in each game thus far, including a season-high 18 against Marshall on Sunday. Ole Miss enters the UCF game with a +3.0 turnover margin.

*** In just their second season playing for the Red and Blue, Chris Warren and David Huertas are both moving up Ole Miss' career three-point charts at a break-neck pace. With seven treys this year, Warren has moved into eighth place all-time with 110. Huertas has knocked down 14 from downtown and moved into a tie for 10th place with Jason Flanigan when Huertas hit his 88th and 89th career triples against Marshall on Sunday.

*** WILL BOGAN: Freshman set season highs with 8 points and 2 three-pointers against Marshall.

*** DeAUNDRE CRANSTON: JUCO transfer started his first game as a Rebel vs. Marshall. Had 9 points and 5 rebounds vs. South Alabama. Despite a wide, 6-9 frame, has the ability to connect from long range.

*** ZACH GRAHAM: Just hours after learning that junior guard Eniel Polynice would miss the remainder of the season, Graham stepped into Polynice's spot in the starting lineup vs. South Alabama and responded with a career-high 16 points, including 3-for-4 from the field, 2-of-3 from downtown and a perfect 8-for-8 from the free-throw stripe. Made seven starts as a freshman last season and averaged 5.9 points in 35 appearances.

*** TERRANCE HENRY: Earned a spot in the starting lineup for the first three games of his collegiate career. Tallied 8 points and 7 rebounds vs. Utah. Had 8 points and 6 boards against South Alabama.

*** MURPHY HOLLOWAY: Team's top scorer off the bench with 7.5 points per game. Scored 11 points with 6 rebounds against Utah. Picked up 4 steals vs. Marshall.

*** MALCOLM WHITE: Has started all four games as a sophomore after playing in 26 contests with no starts his rookie season. Tops the team in rebounding (5.5/game) and blocked shots (1.3/game).

*** TERRICO WHITE: First Memphis signee for Kennedy's program. Earned his first starting nod in the 82-78 win over Marshall, scoring 6 points and grabbing 5 rebounds. Season-high 5 assists vs. South Alabama.

*** Ole Miss set a school record and tied the Southeastern Conference record with a perfect 22-for-22 performance from the free-throw line in last Tuesday's 89-71 win over South Alabama. It was the first time a Rebel team has converted every attempt in a game with 20 or more chances, and only the fourth time in SEC history for a team to accomplish that feat. Sophomore guard Zach Graham led the way with 8-for-8 from the charity stripe, while Chris Warren, Terrance Henry and David Huertas were 4-for-4 and Murphy Holloway made both of his attempts. The performance was a far cry from last year's Rebel squad that made just 65.1 percent of its free-throw attempts on the season.

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