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Let’s Catch You Up on UCF Women’s Basketball

UCF’s Women’s Basketball team is having its best season in years right now.

NCAA Womens Basketball: Connecticut at Central Florida
Kay Kay Wright
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

We bet you thought we would just leave you with UCF Men’s Basketball’s season catch-up and call it a day. But no. Because you need to know what’s going on with the UCF Knights Women’s Basketball team, which is having a season of equal or perhaps greater success than the men.

So, here you go:

Record

13-2, 2-0 in The American. 8-1 on the road. The Knights are one of four teams still undefeated in The American.

In the Rankings

UCF is receiving a vote in the latest AP Top 25, the first time that’s ever happened. UCF is 22nd in the RPI as of January 10th. That’s second-best in The American aside from - you guessed it - UConn (7th).

Big Wins

  • 61-58 at Pitt (9-7, 0-2 ACC, #79 RPI). UCF spoiled Pitt’s opener and an afternoon out of school for several hundred Pittsburgh-area kids:
  • 71-56 vs. Villanova (10-5, 2-3 Big East, #43 RPI). Villanova has one of the toughest schedules in the nation this year, and UCF proved it with another fantastic defensive effort.
  • 64-57 vs. Pacific (9-5, 2-2 WCC, #68 RPI). Pacific presented an interesting challenge from a style perspective with their high pace and outside shooting, but UCF’s defense won the day.

Tough Losses

  • 57-52 vs. #12 Syracuse (13-2, 2-0 ACC, 4th RPI) in St. Petersburg on December 22nd. UCF was step-for-step with the Orange the entire night, holding them to 35% from the field. But after the Knights took a 50-48 lead with 4:52 left, they did not record a field goal the rest of the game as Syracuse closed it out on a 9-2 run:
  • 75-68 at Central Michigan (12-3, 3-0 MAC, 21st RPI) on November 21st. Despite an astounding 31 points from Kay Kay Wright on 11/15 shooting, including 3/3 from the arc and 6/6 at the line, the rest of the Knights went a combined 14/54 from the field. The Knights led by 5 with 3:21 left, but made just one field goal the rest of the way as the Chippewas closed the game on a 14-2 run.

What the Knights Are Doing Well

  • Defense. UCF is #1 in The American in scoring defense - and yes, that’s ahead of UConn - giving up 53.5 points per game (10th-best in the nation). They’re holding opponents to just 35.2% from the field, and are +4.6/game in turnover margin. UCF is also third in The American in steals (103/game).
  • Rebounding. The Knights are also among the leaders in The American in rebounding, at 4th in the league in Defensive Rebounding Percentage (69.5%) and second in rebounding defense, allowing just 33.5 total boards by their opponents per game.

Areas of Concern

  • Outside Shooting. Not that Coach Abe’s philosophy centers around the three-point shot - it doesn’t - but the Knights average just 3.9 threes per game (59 total in 15 games). However, they are third in the conference in 3FG% (36.2%), so they just don’t take a lot of them.
  • Distribution. With Wright shouldering the scoring load, that has taken away her distribution game, as UCF averages just 11 assists per game as a team, and Wright is averaging 3.7 assists per game.

Who’s Playing Well

  • Kay Kay Wright (18.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 46% FG/47% 3FG/83% FT). Wright is making a serious play for all-conference honors this year. She is the only Knight averaging double-figures, and is second in scoring and third in three-point shooting in the conference.
  • Nyala Shuler (7.5 rpg). Shuler has been a workhorse, and though she doesn’t score much, she does all of the little things that UCF needs done on the defensive end. She’s also top-10 in The American in offensive, defensive and total rebounds.

Who’s Stepped It Up

  • Kayla Thigpen. Thigpen has come off the bench in all but two games this year, but is second on the team in scoring at a shade under 10 ppg. She’s also shooting over 50% and leads the team in steals with 25.
  • Sydnee McDonald. After playing in just eight games last year for UCF, McDonald has taken over the two and performed admirably. She’s third on the team in scoring (7.9 ppg) and leads the Knights in threes made with 26.
  • Coach Abe. #DancingQueen:

Who’s Good in The American This Year

  • #3 UConn (13-1, 2-0 AAC, #7 RPI). Because of course they are. Their only loss was at #4 Baylor on January 3rd, in case you wondered. Strangely, after scoring at least 80 points in eight of their first nine games, they’ve done it only twice in the last five.
  • Tulane (13-3, 3-0 AAC, #74 RPI). The Wave got off to a hot start, beating LSU and Washington in consecutive games. But they’ve made their hay against a bunch of relative cupcakes after that, hence the relatively weak RPI, as they are the third-highest AAC team in those rankings, with no other team from the conference in the Top 100.
  • South Florida (10-6, 1-1 AAC, #146 RPI). Just kidding. They’re having a bad year by their standards. They were blindsided by Kitija Laksa’s season-ending knee injury, and haven’t really found any traction since. UCF beat them in Tampa for only the second time ever last week.

Still, they’re one of the most well-coached teams in The American, and should never be taken for granted.

The American right now is 9th in the Conference RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com. That’s not great.

Big Games Coming Up

UCF should feast on the rest of the AAC the rest of the way, since it’s a down year for the league. The games you really want to pay close attention to are:

  • at UConn - Sunday, January 22nd
  • vs. South Florida - Sunday, February 3rd
  • at Tulane - Wednesday, February 13th
  • vs. UConn - Sunday, February 17th
  • vs. Tulane - Saturday, March 2nd

Outlook

In a weak year for The American, and with South Florida scuffling, this is UCF’s best chance to get to the NCAA Tournament in a long while. The Knights have never made it as an at-large, and with UConn in the league, that’s UCF’s likely only path to the dance. Charlie Creme of ESPN has the Knights as a 9-seed in the Tournament, but for that to happen, they’ll have to take care of business against everyone not named UConn in the conference to ensure a bid.

Who to Follow

Our guys at UCF Men’s Basketball this year will primarily be me (@Jeff_Sharon) and Eric Lopez (@EricLopezELO). But you can follow all of the latest with UCF Women’s Hoops, as well as around The American, on this Twitter List: