The UCF Knights Women’s Basketball team moved within one win of locking up their first American Athletic Conference regular season championship with another dominant defensive performance, demolishing Temple 68-31 in Philadelphia to improve to 20-3 overall and 12-1 in the AAC.
Brittney Smith led the offense with 14 points and 7 rebounds while Alisha Lewis had 12 points and 6 assists. Masseny Kaba chipped in with 11 points and 6 rebounds.
Here are my three takeaways from the win:
1. Coach Abe Is the Torchy Clark of Women’s Basketball
With respect to all the previous UCF Women’s Basketball head coaches in program history, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson has put the Knights on the national map and taken the program to a level not many thought was possible.
Saturday’s win at Temple was the Knights’ 20th win of the season. It is the fifth time in six seasons under Coach Abe that UCF has won at least 20 games, and the only season UCF did not win 20 games was last season, when they were limited on schedule due to COVID and still finished 16-5.
To put those numbers in perspective, prior to Coach Abe’s arrival, UCF Women’s Basketball had only six 20-win seasons, with only two of them coming in the Division I era.
UCF made the NCAA Tournament four times (1996, 1999, 2009, 2011) prior to her arrival. The Knights will be making their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance under Coach Abe in couple of weeks.
What Coach Abe has done with UCF Women’s Basketball is what the great Torchy Clark did with UCF’s Men’s Basketball program. From 1969-1983, Clark never had a losing season, and built the Knights into a national power in Division II, with five Sunshine State Conference regular season championships, one conference tournament championship and six NCAA tournament appearances in eight years.
What Coach Abe has done in turning UCF Basketball into a winning program has been remarkable considering UCF is not a “blue blood” in Women’s Basketball compared to the UConns, Tennessees and Stanfords of the world, and do not have nearly the resources or support as other basketball programs.
Coach Abe is a top 10 all-time coach in UCF history.
2. UCF’s Defense Has Taken It to a Historic Level
The Knights’ defense once again put on a clinic, holding Temple to 23% from the field while forcing 21 turnovers. The Knights turned that into 25 points. The Owls only made 12 field goals in the entire game.
It is the third straight game that UCF has held an opponent to less than 35 points, and the fifth game this season UCF has held an opponent to under 40.
3. A Historic Week Lies Ahead
UCF will host Cincinnati next Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bearcats are only team to have beaten the Knights in conference play. Something tells me the players have this game circled.
A win officially clinches the AAC regular season title for the Knights, which would be the program’s first regular season conference title since winning the 2005 A-Sun championship. The magic number is 1 for UCF, which also means they could officially clinch prior to the Cincinnati game even being played, depending on other results. Still, UCF will want to clinch and celebrate at home, which would be fitting considering how dominant they have been at home during the Coach Abe era.
Another possible milestone for the program is being ranked in the top 25 for the first time in the Division I era. UCF is currently one spot out in the Coaches Poll. Perhaps with some help, Knight fans may get to see something they have never ever seen before: a ranked UCF Women’s Basketball team playing at home on Saturday. The Knights can celebrate a conference championship after the game and a top 25 ranking. Even if they are not ranked this week, a win against Cincinnati likely gets them into the Top 25 a few days later.
Regardless, we are seeing historic things from this UCF Women’s Basketball team. It is not too late to jump on the bandwagon. Don’t take it for granted, as not many ever thought they would see this happen, including me.