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UCF squeaks by Tulsa 55-53 in back-and-forth ball game

The Knights improve to 12-2 on the season.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-First Round-Virginia Commonwealth vs UCF Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The UCF Knights are thrilled after the results of their roller coaster game with the Tulsa Golden Hurricane.

In a tight back-and-forth affair, the Knights came out on top in a 55-53 win.

The largest lead either team had in the contest was five points. Tulsa held its largest lead after the first quarter, a 12-7 advantage.

But the Knights shook off their rust after the first quarter and benefitted from five quick points off the bench from sophomore guard Ahna Burney, who averaged under three points coming into today’s game. Burney contributed all of the Knights’ eight bench points for the game.

UCF tried pulling away at the start of the third quarter, but Tulsa wouldn’t let UCF get too far out of reach. Sisters Maya and Wyvette Mayberry scored 17 and 15 points respectively and gave UCF most of its problems today.

The back-and-forth battle continued until the waning seconds of the game. The score was tied at 53 with less than a minute to go and the shot clock was winding down. UCF was looking to get Alisha Lewis, who scored a team-high 15, open for a three, but the looks didn’t come.

Then, senior Tay Sanders drove into the lane with the left-handed layup in what would eventually be the game-winning bucket.

“I felt like there was an open lane, so I just took it,” Sanders said.

The Knights found the defensive stops late to seal the deal and win the team’s 12th game of the season.

A big reason the Knights won Saturday came from their rebounding efforts. UCF outrebounded Tulsa 36-24, and junior Brittney Smith led all players with 13 boards. She also added 10 points for a double-double.

“We’re gonna do whatever we have to do to succeed in the end,” Smith said.

The win today keeps the Knights second in the American at 10-1 in conference play. Their lone conference loss came against Temple on the road, and they’ll meet Temple in Orlando a week from today.

“I hope I don’t have to motivate my team for this one,” coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said.

After Temple comes two games against 12th-ranked USF, who occupies the top spot in the conference.

The Knights proved today that they are talented and experienced team that continues to shine in close ball games, but the real important tests are coming and there’s better time than now to play your best basketball of the season.