It’s been quite a five-year run for UCF Knights Women’s Basketball.
Last season, the Knights made the NCAAs for a third straight year, and only the fact that it was a COVID-shortened year prevented them from hitting 20 wins for the fifth time in as many seasons under Coach Abe.
However, two goals still elude the Knights: An American Athletic Conference title, and an NCAA Tournament victory. This year, they’re in as good a position as ever to finally break through both of those barriers.
16-5, 12-2 AAC, NCAA First Round
Despite losing six games of the schedule to COVID, the Knights dominated the conference, with their only losses coming in a head-scratcher at Temple and at South Florida, where despite some COVID-related standings shenanigans by the conference and a valiant comeback, the Knights could not keep the Bulls from clinching their first conference title.
Even so, a few days later, UCF’s victory over the Bulls at home effectively clinched an at-large NCAA bid for the Knights. It was their first-ever win over a top-15 team, and definitely earned one of Coach Abe’s patented post-win dances:
Top 15 win— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) March 5, 2021
Top 15 dance #ChargeOn | #WarOnI4 pic.twitter.com/7GS2b8y2rn
In the rubber match in the American Championship, however, South Florida came out on top by 10:
Despite securing a 10-seed, the highest in school history, UCF lost in the first round to Northwestern in a game that saw Diamond Battles leave with what looked like a devastating injury. Fortunately, she should be back for this season.
UCF is the unanimous pick to finish in second place in the conference behind — you guessed it — South Florida:
Who’s in Charge
Coach Abrahamson-Henderson, or Coach Abe, is in her fifth year at the helm and once again returns her entire staff from a team that was the best scoring defense in the NCAA on the defensive end, holding their opponents to under 50 points per game in the regular season:
Our scoring defense continues to lead the nation— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) March 15, 2021
In 11 games this season we've held opponents below 50 points.#ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/IDgvwfbEeJ
Who to Watch
#3 Diamond Battles
2021: 10.0 points, 3.7 assists, 2.4 steals per game
The senior guard from Winter Haven was named to the All-AAC Tournament team last season and is the emotional leader of the team, particularly on defense.
#5 Masseny Kaba
2021: 9.0 points, 6.3 rebounds per game
Mass returns for a fifth season of eligibility tanks to COVID, and remains a steady presence on the interior, especially offensively.
#1 Tay Sanders
2021: 10.4 points, 5.0 rebounds per game
An outstanding two-way player, Sanders is the Knights’ only pre-season All-AAC election on the roster, after she led the team in scoring and was second in steals.
Who We’ll Miss
UCF returns all major contributors from last season.
#31 Shania Meertens
2021 at Clemson: 3.2 points, 1.5 rebounds per game (22 games)
The 5-8 guard from Winter Springs High school returns home as a redshirt senior transfer and should bolster the backcourt’s depth.
#30 Neila Luma
2021 at George Washington: 7.7 points, 6.1 rebounds (1st on team) in 23 games (all starts)
Luma’s rebounding should help UCF on the weak side, or is Masseny Kaba or Brittney Smith get into foul trouble, which was an issue at times last season.
Who’s on the Roster
- Eight seniors or fifth-year players
- Two transfers
- Two freshmen
- Five players from Florida, including four from the Central Florida area
The Last Time...
Last Conference Title: 2011. UCF was in Conference USA at the time.
Who to Follow
- UCF Women’s Basketball: @UCF_WBB
- Coach ABE: @COACH_ABE
- The American Women’s Basketball: @American_WBB