The UCF Knights are back in the American Athletic Conference Championship Game after suffocating the 3-seed Houston Cougars, 61-39, in the second semifinal on Thursday night. The Knights will face the rival USF Bulls on Thursday night at 10 p.m. ET in the final on ESPNU.
The Knights’ defense again was the star of the show, holding Houston, which came in as the second-best scoring offense in the American at more than 68 points per game, to just 14/53 from the floor (26.3%). It’s the third time UCF has held an opponent under 40 points this season. UCF is also now averaging just 49.2 points allowed per game, which has been bested so far by only 12 other teams in the history of Division I NCAA Women’s Basketball.
Coach Abe after the game:
Houston came into the game averaging the second-most threes per game in the league at 6.9, but only hit two threes out of 16 tries. UCF also dominated the boards, 45-26. This was all despite UCF turning the ball over 23 times to Houston’s 16.
On offense, Diamond Battles led the Knights again with 14 points on 5/8 shooting, while Masseny Kaba posted 13 points and 9 rebounds. Brittney Smith and Alisha Lewis were also in double figures with 10 apiece.
Here’s Kaba after the game as well:
The Rubber Match
The win sets up a rubber match between UCF and USF, this time in the conference championship game on Thursday night.
USF won the first meeting in Tampa last Tuesday to clinch the AAC regular season title, holding on after Lewis missed a potential game-tying three at the buzzer. Two days later, the Knights shut down the Bulls by 13 in Orlando to finish the regular season.
Over the last six quarters between the two teams, UCF has out-scored USF 103-76.
It’s UCF’s first appearance in the AAC Championship since 2019, when UConn defeated the Knights 66-45. UCF made the NCAA Tournament as an at-large anyway.
UCF’s last conference tournament title came ten years ago in 2011, when the Knights beat Tulane 85-73 to take the C-USA title and its last automatic bid to the NCAAs.