The win comes four days after the Knights (11-9, 2-8 Big 12) suffered their worst loss of the season, a 41-point blowout to West Virginia.
“That was a game that we wasn’t in from the tip, and give West Virginia all the credit, we just wasn’t,” head coach Sytia Messer said. “So, I didn’t watch film. I did nothing with West Virginia but get on a plane and came back to Orlando and got better, got this team better, because we just wasn’t ready and give my team credit, they responded well today.”
Let’s go over some of the game’s key points:
Down, but not Out
Hope you brought your umbrella ☔️ pic.twitter.com/RXOVBRlAAj— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) February 3, 2024
The Cyclones found themselves in familiar territory on Saturday afternoon as they led UCF going into the half, 29-24. Iowa State entered the game 9-1 when ahead at the break.
Guards Mya Burns and Laila Jewett had combined for five points at that time.
However, thanks to much improved second-half shooting, the duo were the top two scoring Knights of the game. Burns had her highest-scoring game of the season with 20 points, while Jewett’s 14 points was her highest-scoring game in conference play.
“We just wanted to keep shooting, shoot with confidence, and just know that our shots were going to start falling and that’s what went out and happened,” Burns said. “We just stayed confident, kept shooting open shots and they started falling for us.”
Fellow guard Kaitlin Peterson was not too far behind with 11 points, yet Saturday marked just the second game this season in which she did not lead the Knights in field goal attempts.
Burns has been one of the main players to step up alongside Peterson over the last couple of games, but she ran into a cold streak against the Mountaineers, going just 1-10 on from the floor. On Saturday, she went 8-16.
“She can’t do it all by herself,” Jewett said. “The fact that we stepped up today shows that we get results when we do exactly what we know we’re supposed to do.”
Pulling Even Beyond the Arc
That’s 4️⃣ threes from Mya— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) February 3, 2024
She’s currently 4-7 from beyond the arc‼️ pic.twitter.com/Kr4HxPOUkz
Of Burns’ 20 points, 12 of them came courtesy of a three-point shooting tear she went on in the third quarter, nailing 4-5 shots in those 10 minutes.
“We came out of halftime, warming up, I was just shooting threes ‘cause I knew that those threes were open in the first half,” Burns said.
Jewett also got in on the three-point action, going 2-6 from beyond the arc.
However, just as important as UCF’s three-point offense was its three-point defense. The Cyclones may rank second in the Big 12 in three-point shots per game, but the Knights limited them to 7-25 from three-point land. This makes it the fifth time this season that Iowa State had less than a 29% three-point field-goal percentage, and it has lost all five.
“We tried to do a switch a lot and just be there on the shots,” Messer said. “So, we were able to switch effectively, especially the second half.”
At the Boards
In addition to the lower-than-average three-point shooting, Iowa State head coach Bill Fennelly cited the Knights’ rebounding ability as another point of difference.
Burns and guard Morgan Robinson-Wagwu tied for the team lead with seven rebounds each, followed close behind by center Khyala Ngodu with six and Jewett with five. As a team, UCF out-rebounded the Cyclones, 39-30 overall, and 14-8 in offensive rebounds.
“We really struggled to rebound the ball, which normally we’re very good at,” Fennelly said. “In the second half, just really had a hard time with our on-ball defense and you’ve got to give [UCF] a lot of credit, they attacked the basket really hard and made some really good plays. That was probably the first time all year we’ve had that issue, so credit to them.”
The Knights will look to make it back-to-back victories when they welcome Cincinnati to Orlando at 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The Bearcats edged out UCF in their last meeting in Ohio thanks to a last-second layup from A’riel Jackson.
They also rank 13th in the nation in three-point percentage defense and 25th in the nation in free throws made per game. Forward Jillian Hayes ranks Top 5 in the Big 12 in both free throws and rebounds.