As the New Year dawns, so does the next part of the UCF Knights Women’s Basketball team’s season.
The Knights (9-3) concluded their non-conference schedule Thursday night with a 92-67 thumping of Texas Southern.
“We knew we had to come out and take care of business tonight,” guard Rachel Ranke said. “We were feeling pretty good about ourselves after the Christmas Classic, but we knew we had to close out non-conference strong, so I’m just proud of the way we executed tonight.”
Wrapping up 2022 on a high note #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/gEmATiCmJm— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) December 30, 2022
Southern Texas (0-11) did keep things close to start, jumping out ahead with a couple of three-pointers as a scoring foundation. However, despite such an early advantage, the Knights gained one of their own that let them get a firm hold on the lead by the end of the first quarter: second-chance points.
UCF brought down 27 offensive rebounds, the most in a single game this season, en route to scoring 33 second-chance points. In comparison, the Tigers only came up with 7 offensive boards, the least of any UCF opponent this season, and only came away with 1 second-chance point.
Ranke said the team has been putting a “big emphasis” on rebounding and that it played a big role in Thursday night’s game and will continue to be one in conference play.
“Rebounding wins games, loses games, so we’re gonna have to just keep it going,” Ranke said.
AND ONE from DESTINY pic.twitter.com/eJO17hsUCp— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) December 30, 2022
Third Game’s The Charm
It looked like forward Anzhané Hutton was heading for a third-straight quiet offensive game since her return from a dislocated patella. However, by the end of the night, Hutton had put on an offensive performance that Ranke said she knew would happen, it was just a matter of time.
“I’ve been waiting,” Ranke said. “I told her today is gonna be her day. I’m telling you, I was texting her and I was like, ‘I feel it for you.’”
Through the first three quarters, Hutton said she was missing “chippies,” only getting 5 points going 2-3 from the floor. Then, the Howard transfer exploded for 17 points in the 4th quarter alone, going 6-7 from the floor and a perfect 5-5 at the free-throw line. It propelled her to the team’s leading scorer for the night with 22 total points.
“She’s trying to get back up under her feet,” Ranke said. “Today was the day that we really got a glimpse of just everything she can do.”
Meanwhile, forward Destiny Thomas continues to showcase why Head Coach Sytia Messer nicknamed her “Old Faithful.”
Thomas achieved her 7th double-double of the season thanks to bringing down 11 rebounds and scoring 13 points, going 5-7 from the floor and 3-3 from the line. Going into Thursday night, she was already leading the nation in offensive rebounds per game, ranked 5th in rebounds per game, and 16th in double-doubles.
“She’s been saving literally everybody on the team,” Hutton said. “Grabbing rebounds, it’s impossible for other people to get it. So, as long as she keeps doing that, we’re going to be great.”
7️⃣— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) December 30, 2022
Destiny records her 7th double-double this season pic.twitter.com/WMhOZUYv1c
On to 2023 (and AAC Play)
As of Dec. 23rd, the Knights ranked among the bottom three in the AAC in scoring offense, but among the top three in scoring defense. While Messer acknowledged the offensive end needed improvement, she said the team’s identity is with its defense.
“If we can create 15 or more turnovers from our opponents, that’s going to be a good night for us,” Messer said.
Meanwhile, the conference ranked UCF 8th in its preseason poll, which is just how Hutton likes it.
“I feel like we’re more hungry just because we’re the underdogs and honestly, I like being an underdog because it just lights a fire under our blood.”
The Knights will begin conference play at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 3 as they hit the road to face SMU.