Having lost seven of their last eight, the UCF Knights Women’s Hoops team needed something to turn things around. They found it with a win over the Temple Owls, 57-53, in their second-to-last home game of the season on Tuesday night.
Ashton Verhulst is Back in the Rotation
After starting the season as one of the four returning veterans, Ashton Verhulst went out with a leg injury just before the UCF Thanksgiving Classic tournament, only returning on February 4th.
But in her best performance since her return to action, Verhulst put up nine points with two rebounds, including UCF’s first three of the contest.
Ashton gets us started with a THREEE pic.twitter.com/nAuJCfkPhv— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) February 21, 2023
While Verhulst’s efforts kickstarted the offense to a 31-25 lead at the half, the Knights suffered yet another 3rd quarter slump, thanks to turnovers and struggles from the free throw line.
UCF committed 17 turnovers and shot 15-27 at the line, and Temple held the Knights to seven points in the third quarter to snag a 42-38 lead.
However, sending the Knights to the line 27 times has consequences. Temple’s foul trouble nearly affected the active roster itself.
After the Tuesday night win over #Temple, ucf.wbb’s Ashton Verhulst talks about having her best game since she returned to action #GKCO #ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/G8amRJC2Ml— Black & Gold Banneret (@UCFBanneret_SBN) February 22, 2023
Temple started the game with only eight active players on the roster. The Owls’ Brittney Garner was disqualified in the third quarter when she left the bench to join a heated exchange that started when Temple’s Denise Solis and UCF’s Destiny Thomas got tangled up on a play. Ines Piper fouled out in the final quarter, and Caranda Perea left the game with an injury, leaving Temple with just five available players for most of the fourth.
That gave the Knights' backcourt a chance to shine, hitting crucial shots down the stretch. Mya Burns hit a clutch game-tying shot, and Sierra Godbolt and veteran Lelia Jewett hit the free throws that would put the game out of reach.
Hutton was Struttin’
None of this is to say that the frontcourt didn’t do its job. Anzhane Hutton was a huge force, finishing with a team-best 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Drivin' it in pic.twitter.com/iRyfYC2FZ2— UCF Women's Hoops (@UCF_WBB) February 22, 2023
Taylor Gibson also grabbed 10 boards while Thomas also snagged eight. As a team, UCF out-rebounded Temple 56-43. 11 of UCF’s 19 4th quarter points came on second chances.
The Path to a Winning Record
With the Knights’ record close to .500 at 12-13, a winning season is still very much in the cards. After the game, head coach Sytia Messer spoke on that point.
“It’s important,” Messer said. “As a coach, you know you want a winning record, but I also have to understand that it’s a process. It’s about our players getting better and me starting a foundation. “
With the postponed game against the SMU Mustangs still not re-scheduled, Saturday’s Senior Knight matchup with the Cincinnati Bearcats might be the season’s final game at Addition Financial Arena.