The UCF Knights dominated Virginia from the opening tip with pressure defense and a balanced scoring attack to improve to 2-1 on the season with a 59-38 win over the Cavaliers.
It is the second time in three games this season that the Knights have held an opponent under 40 points. That is on pace to break last’s season Division I era record of most times holding an opponent under 40, which UCF did four times. Since the 2018-2019 season, UCF is 3-1 against teams from the ACC conference.
Here are my three takeaways from the Knights win.
1. The Defense Led to Easy Points
UCF’s defense is still every bit as good as, if not better than, last season, when they were top scoring defense in country. But it’s also arguably the Knights’ best offense.
In last season’s opener, a 26-point win at home over Virginia, the Knights held Cavaliers to 34 points, including only 4 in the 3rd quarter on 29% from the field. They forced 30 turnovers, which turned into 28 points.
On Wednesday, the Knights held Virginia to just 5 points in the 3rd quarter, as UCF outscored them 13-5 to put the game away. The Knights’ defense also held the Cavaliers to 32% shooting from the field while forcing 23 Cavalier turnovers, which turned into 24 points.
The Knights scored 19 fast break points while holding Virginia to only 3. UCF also dominated the glass, out-rebounding Virginia 39-23, and holding the Cavaliers to just 5 offense rebounds.
2. UCF Gets Balance on Offense
Brittney Smith set the tone early with 8 of her 12 points coming in the first quarter on 4/4 from the field, as UCF led 16-11 after one quarter. Tay Sanders led the Knights with 15 points, scoring 7 of those in the 2nd quarter, as the Knights outscored Virginia 18-9 in the 2nd to go up 34-20 at halftime. Alisha Lewis added 11 points in her first start of the season.
This was something that was missing in the loss to the Lady Vols last week, where Diamond Battles scored 21 of UCF’s 41 points. Battles was quiet, scoring only 4 points in just 20 minutes. But she did not start the game, as Coach Abe perhaps wanted to load-manage Battles’ minutes in the Knights’ third game in eight days, and also see other players step up against a team with less depth and talent. She got what she was looking for.
3. UCF Gets Production From Bench
UCF Head Coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said following the Knights’ loss to Tennessee that she had been dissapointed with the production from the bench.
The players got the message on Wednesday night, as UCF’s bench scored 29 points, more than the first two games combined (20). Smith had a double-double off the bench with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Knights return home to host Belmont on Sunday at 2 p.m. in a game that will air on ESPN+.