Leading into Wednesday night’s regular season finale, UCF Knights Women’s Basketball was already the American Athletic Conference champions. With the top spot in the American secured, head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson’s squad was looking for one last opportunity to get polished and lock in on the postseason. They did just that blowing away the Tulsa Golden Hurricane, 61-48.
A Good Warm-Up in a Slow Start
Notorious for starting slow, the Knights found themselves struggling early. They failed to get a lead for the first eight minutes of the first quarter which came after a six-point offensive run. However, as Coach Abe tells her players all the time, “you can always play defense”. The opening quarter ended tied up at 14 with help from UCF forcing six turnovers in the quarter. The Golden Hurricane kept it close at halftime, 25-24 by going 5-of-11 from beyond the arc heading into the locker room.
Tulsa was strong from long range with 11-of-26 with help from forward Temira Poindexter who hit 4-of-9 from three-point range for 18 points as well as guard Wyvette Mayberry who was 4-of-6 from downtown dropping 15 of her own.
The silver lining in the early struggles lies in this UCF team responding well after hitting their occasional low notes throughout the season. After slow starts, the Knights begin to charge harder and finish games with victories. After losing to Cincinnati on the road, they would sweep top teams in the conference to take the AAC crown.
Perhaps this was the best dress rehearsal for the ladies to find that focus and lock in for potential postseason adversity — or to prevent it from happening at all?
UCF’s Destiny is back-to-back double-doubles.
Anyone who follows UCF women’s basketball is well aware of center Destiny Thomas and her rebounding presence in the paint. However, with team captain and fifth-year senior forward Masseny Kaba in foul trouble early, Thomas saw another opportunity to attack the basket. With offensive aggression that’s come late in the season, she caused damage to the Golden Hurricane defense.
Thomas finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for a second double-double in as many nights and her third on the season.
Not to be outdone, forward Brittney Smith made the most of her senior night with 12 points and 14 boards for a double-double of her own while guard Diamond Battles tied Thomas’ 14 points for the team high.
More To Come . . .
Next up for the Knights is the American Conference Tournament. As champs, the ladies get a first-round bye which makes for a lull in action that Coach Abe has come to dread.
That being said, tournament play is a different animal. It would be safe to imagine that coaches and players alike are relying on the intensity toward reaching the goal of an American tournament win to keep them from slumping as they did against Cincinnati in January coming off of a six-day break.