Opening the season at 2-0 while averaging 98.5 points per game, UCF Knights Women’s Basketball faced their first non-conference challenge of the year on Monday night hosting the SEC’s Auburn Tigers. Vengeance for last year’s 40-point schlacking was realized as the Knights prevailed 60-53.
A Game of Runs and Muscle
While the Tigers opened scoring in the contest, UCF started the game with an 11-point run carried by scoring from guards Mya Burns, Laila Jewitt, and Kaitlin Peterson. This sparked a 14-7 lead at the end of the first quarter. Peterson was the first player to double digits as she finished the night with 16 points and seven rebounds.
KP wanted in on the 2️⃣pt action pic.twitter.com/tqnWSFSQ8P— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) November 21, 2023
In the second quarter, Sydney Shaw had the Tigers clawing back with runs of their own as she had 11 points in the first 20 minutes and finished with 17. This was also bolstered by Auburn’s presence in the paint. They led UCF in rebounds 34-27 in the contest.
This fact was countered by head coach Sytia Messer who called on center Jayla Kelly to battle back against Auburn’s sizeable frontcourt. Kelly did her part so well on the glass grabbing seven boards that the Tigers’ tried to go at her. They came in the form of hard fouls including an intentional foul that helped UCF keep the lead at the half 27-26 despite Kelly committing a technical foul.
Jewett and Burns Taking Turns
The Tigers attacked early in the 3rd quarter going on a five-point run while also drawing a third foul on Kelly taking her off the floor temporarily. However, while Auburn had the size advantage, the perimeter players started getting hot.
On her quest to a game-high 19 points, Jewett started hitting from beyond the arc to have UCF leading by as many as 10. Shaw and company answered again for closing it to as little as a three-point difference, but the Knights headed into the 4th quarter up 45-37.
In the final quarter, it was Burns who got hot pouring in eight points to keep the Tigers at bay. Burns finished with 12 points.
Coach Messer had either Jewett or Peterson glued to Shaw throughout the closing stage of the game to keep her from hitting any big shots.
With 2:32 left, Shaw brought Auburn within two, but Peterson converted a three-point play with 1:35 left that sealed the deal to put UCF at 3-0.
An Opportunity to be Thankful for
Over the Thanksgiving break next week, the Knights will travel to Puerto Rico for the Discover Puerto Rico Classic. Starting on Wednesday they will face Jackson State, St. John’s, and Sacred Heart as an opportunity to further craft their squad for conference play starting December 30th.
In the postgame press conference, coach Messer relished the chance the tournament provides some practice with intangibles that impact the team. The chance to go on the road and sharpen themselves as a traveling squad while also getting the chance to bond more being together in a holiday atmosphere.