After coming off of four straight wins against American Athletic Conference opponents, a dominant defense helped lead the UCF Knights to defeat the USF Bulls 56-48 at Addition Financial Arena on Wednesday evening.
After beating the team on the road earlier this year, UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said limiting the Bulls’ shots from beyond the arc is how they do it again.
“We needed to box them out and limit their threes,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We listened to the game plan and were successful.”
The Knights kicked off the first half scoring 23 points and forcing six turnovers, while the Bulls ended the first half with 18 points.
UCF junior guard Georgia Gayle shot 2-for-2 from beyond the arc in the first quarter and was responsible for six of the 13 points in the quarter.
UCF struggled at the free-throw line throughout the first half, only making 6 of 12 shots. The Bulls went up to the free-throw line four times in the first half and made 75% of their shots taken.
“We missed a lot of layups and we missed a lot of free throws and that contributed to the low percentages,” UCF senior guard Kay Kay Wright said.
Although the Knights came out strong in the first half, the momentum slowed through the third quarter and the Bulls brought the score back to within reach.
USF played competitively through the fourth quarter, but UCF’s ability to force turnovers gave the Knights the advantage and the Bulls weren’t able to catch up.
The Knights capitalized off the Bulls’ 21 turnovers, scoring 13 points, while the Bulls scored seven points off Knights’ eight turnovers.
Wright scored a game-high 24 points against USF, while UCF sophomore forward Brittney Smith had a total of 10 points.
Masseny Kaba led the team in rebounds with eight rebounds for the Knights. The junior forward ended the game with seven points.
Heading into the matchup, UCF, Cincinnati and USF were all tied for the No. 2 spot in the American, having a conference record of 7-4.
With the win, the Knights improve to 16-8 overall and 8-4 in the American.
With the win, the Knights secure a two-way tie with Cincinnati for the No. 2 spot.
The Bulls fall to the third position in league standings, currently tied with Temple having a 7-5 conference record.
“We are down to the last stretch,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We have to come prepared for every game.”
The Knights will travel to face the No. 6 UConn Huskies — who are undefeated in conference play this season — on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.