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Knights Roll Gators 69-52 to Advance in NCAA Tournament

UCF faces UConn in Storrs Monday

NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament - First Round - Connecticut
Brittney Smith scores two of her career-high 26 points in UCF’s win over Florida
Photo by Sean Elliot/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Going into Saturday’s NCAA first-round match-up, the 7-seed UCF Knights were 0-26 in the all-time against the Florida Gators, and 0-6 all-time in the NCAA tournament.

But UCF successfully struck those lines from the history books by beating the 10-seed Gators 69-52 in Storrs, Connecticut.

Health Hurts Gators in the Contest

The Gators were already missing Kiki Smith, a first-team All-SEC selection, before tipoff with a knee injury. Then Faith Dut went down with an ankle injury that ended her afternoon late in the first half.

UCF took the lead in the first quarter and never looked back, as four different players — Diamond Battles, Masseny Kaba, Brittney Smith, and Shania Merteens — scored for the Knights in the opening period.

The Gators had the rebounding advantage with 24 boards in the first half compared to UCF’s 16. However, the Knights’ smothering defense neutralized that advantage, forcing 10 Florida turnovers while only giving up four. Six blocks and four steals also propelled the Knights to a 34-23 halftime lead.

Knights Clamp Down and Finish Strong

With UCF up 11 to start the second half, the Gators found a spark and mounted a comeback. Guards Nina Rickards and Zippy Broughten led an 11-2 run that pulled Florida within four points.

Unfortunately for the Orange and Blue, that’s the closest they’d get. Rickards finished with 17 points and Broughton with 12.

The Knights’ defense protected the hoop like armor as the Gators were only good for 30% from the floor and for 20% from three-point range. UCF finished the game shooting 45% on field goals mostly on the strength of Smith going 11-15 for a career-high 26 points and eliminating all doubt as to why she is known as “Brittney Buckets”.

Not to be outdone, Diamond Battles also finished with 18 points and seven assists while Kaba had 14 points and six rebounds, matching Smith’s total on the glass.

More History to Write

While the Knights’ win broke two big barriers in women’s basketball, a familiar foe awaits in the UConn Huskies. UCF is 0-13 all-time against their former American Athletic Conference mates, including in their first trip to the AAC Championship Game back in the 2018-2019 season.

The Huskies’ leaving the conference forged a path for UCF to this year’s success. And now, they present an opportunity to raise the level of accomplishment even higher on Monday. Tip time will be at 9 pm on ESPN on Monday.