Thanks to the COVID-19 postponement of the January 2nd Temple game, fans were forced to observe lent early and give up UCF Women’s Basketball at Addition Financial Arena. It’s been 40 days since head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson and the Knights took the floor in Addition Financial arena. They hosted the Houston Cougars to continue American Atheltic Conference play after a successful 4-1 road stretch during which Masseny Kaba scored her 1,000th point. UCF managed to rocket past Houston to hold on and win, 62-59.
The highlights in the home team’s performance tonight were some of the greatest hits Knight fans have come to know and love from Coach Abe’s crew. Tay Sanders with the hot hand from the outside with Destiny Thomas and Brittney Smith dominating down low and the team turning in 17 points from free throws thanks to their aggressive play.
Sanders finished with 23 points, five boards, three assists, and a steal. Smith pitched in 16 herself going 8-of-9 shooting with four rebounds and two steals off the bench. Additionally, Thomas was flirting with a double-double with nine points and nine rebounds.
However, Aliha Lewis deserves special tribute in her effort to keep the Knights undefeated in the AAC. While she only took three shots on the evening, Lewis contributed four rebounds, three assists, and a historic 10 steals. That mark ties a program record last posted by Anita Terlecky against Florida Atlantic on February 22, 1988 — nearly 34 years ago.
Coach Abe gave plenty of credit to Lewis and her frontcourt in the postgame press conference for handling the “smaller details” that lead to victories in close games.
The Cougars were down 15 going into the 4th quarter, 48-23 due in part to scoring only five points in the 2nd quarter. But Houston’s Britney Onyeje found her rhythm going 3-of-5 in the final 10 minutes from the arc to spark a 31-point rally that had her squad leading for the first time since the opening quarter.
In the final three minutes, Sanders sank the first of the final seven points that all came from the charity stripe after scoring the final field goal of the contest while being fouled. That sparked a 7-2 run that secured the Knights the victory despite the Cougars hitting 10-of-22 from three-point land.
With another solid performance from the Knights, they should have good momentum heading into Sunday where they host the first game this season against their rival, the USF Bulls. USF is another team, like Houston, that chucks it from the cheap seats and will challenge UCF on the perimeter.
The Bulls beat UCF in the conference final last year and represent their biggest competition in the American in this season as well.