It’s too bad we don’t have a best-of-seven to settle this.
The UCF Knights came up short in their second-ever bid for an American Athletic Conference title, falling to the USF Bulls 64-54 in Fort Worth. For the Bulls, it’s their first ever conference title in Women’s Basketball, and it comes in The American’s first UConn-less season.
For the Knights, it was a night that they will look back on with some regret for having had multiple chances, even despite falling down by as much as 24 points.
Diamond Battles was understandably emotional after the game:
It was a tale of three halves, if you will.
In the first half, after UCF took an 11-10 lead, USF out-scored UCF 41-16 from the late first quarter to midway through the 3rd, thanks to insanely hot three-point shooting. They went 9/19 from the arc for the game.
Down 24 in the third, UCF then went on an 18-0 run of their own to cut the lead down to 6 at 51-45 with 6:38 to go in the fourth. During that stretch, UCF forced USF into five turnovers and held them scoreless for almost nine minutes. Diamond Battles and Masseny Kaba scored six points each during the run.
But then the Knights went ice cold from the floor at the worst possible time Their last field goal came with 9:06 left in the 4th to cut USF’s lead down to 8. But then UCF missed their next ten shots, and USF just stiff-armed the Knights the rest of the way at the line.
There was a nearly four-minute stretch in the fourth where neither team scored and both the Knights and the Bulls combined for eight turnovers in ten possessions.
Coach Abe said afterwards that it was the early part of the game that cost the Knights:
Sydni Harvey of USF was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament after she hit six threes in the championship.
For UCF, Diamond Battles led the way with 18 points despite starting 2/12 from the field. Masseny Kaba finished with 16 on 7/14 from the floor, plus 8 rebounds.
The Knights are now 16-4 on the season with an 11-2 conference record and a NET ranking of 38. Their only losses were to USF (NET #28) twice (once on the road and once on a neutral court), at home to FGCU (NET #40) and at Temple (NET #145).
Despite the loss, Charlie Creme of ESPN has UCF in the field as one of his last four teams in the NCAA Tournament. The selection show is Monday, March 15th, at 7 p.m.
"#UCF's gonna go to the NCAA Tournament." - USF head coach Jose Fernandez in his post-game interview on ESPNU— Jeff Sharon (@Jeff_Sharon) March 12, 2021
Despite Coach Fernandez’s compliments, the Knights are still considered to be on the bubble in this situation, so they’ll have to sweat out the weekend to see if they get the second at-large bid to the tournament in school history.