The UCF Knights Women’s Basketball team will not take an unbeaten record into its Big 12 play debut.
The Knights suffered their first loss of the season Monday afternoon at the hands of FAU, 59-58, though they did rebound the following day with a 67-41 victory over Morgan State.
“I’m glad that we got a chance to get it out of our system and get rolling,” head coach Sytia Messer said after Tuesday’s win.
Guard Kaitlin Peterson led the way in both games, sinking seven field goals in both contests en route to 18 points on Monday and 20 points on Tuesday. Heading into conference play, she ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 19.5 points per game.
One marked difference between Peterson’s pair of performances, which extends to the rest of UCF (9-1), was success beyond the arc. Against the Owls (5-5), the Knights not only suffered their second-worst three-point performance of the season, going 2-15, but they also gave up 10 three-pointers, the most this season.
“That’s lack of discipline and those are things we’re going to get back to, the principles of our defense, and get better, but we gambled,” Messer said after Monday’s game. “Credit to them, they stepped up to hit big shots, which is what good teams do.”
This was contrasted by UCF’s highest three-point percentage of the season against Morgan State (4-8), in which the Knights went 7-13 (53.8%). Five of those seven converted shots came courtesy of Kaitlin Peterson.
“We executed the ball and Coach just kept telling us ‘It’ll come. It’ll come,’ and it just came and I was open and I just took the shots,” Peterson said Tuesday.
Both performances also contrasted in the team’s passing, with the Morgan State victory seeing 17 assists compared to the FAU game’s six. UNC Wilmington transfer Mary McMillan accounted for four of the Knights’ 17 assists in her season debut, only coming short of Jewett’s six.
Mary with a dime to Tay for +2 on the board pic.twitter.com/BbPwRaZL42— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) December 19, 2023
In the frontcourt, true freshman forward Achol Akot continues to dominate the board, co-leading the team alongside center Jayla Kelly with nine rebounds against FAU and a more dominant 11-rebound performance to lead the team against Morgan State. She ranks third in the Big 12 with 98 rebounds so far this season, averaging 9.8 per game.
“It’s very impressive and we have high expectations for her and that’s why we were trying to get her minutes there as we go into the Big 12 because it’s a game of bigs,” Messer said Tuesday. “It’s a league that has a lot of big post players, so as much experience as we can get her, we’re excited about.”
While the loss caused UCF to fall 18 spots in the NET rankings, the win against Morgan State helped recover six of them, ending up at #81 going into the Christmas break.
Following a break for the Christmas holiday, the Knights will begin Big 12 play on Dec. 30th at 2 p.m. with a trip to Oklahoma to play the Sooners (6-4), who rank third in the Big 12 with 84.9 points per game, but is last in the conference with 71 points allowed per game.