Feb. 9, 2008
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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF women's basketball team rallied from a 15-point second-half deficit Saturday, but was unable to complete the comeback, falling to Memphis, 78-68, in the New UCF Arena to close out the team's four-game Conference USA homestand. Freshman forward Emma Cannon (Rochester, N.Y.) led three Knights in double-figure scoring with a team-high 14 points.
Trailing by 15 points, 50-35, with 17:28 remaining in the game, UCF (8-15, 1-9 Conference USA) went on a 21-6 run over the next nine minutes to knot the score at 56-all. Memphis (7-16, 4-6 C-USA), however, closed the game on a 22-12 run to notch the victory.
"We dug ourselves into a hole and I am proud of the way we fought back to get out of it," UCF head coach Joi Williams said. "One thing that we talked about at the eight-minute media timeout was the fact that we had tied the game, but we couldn't relax; we couldn't be satisfied. Unfortunately, we went out and gave up 22 points. It was a 22-12 run the last seven minutes of the game. That was disappointing because we had talked about it going out of that timeout and then we came out and we weren't as aggressive defensively as we were when we were fighting to get out of that hole. That's one thing we have to learn - we have to learn how to sustain that intensity."
Freshman forward/center Tia Lewis (Poulan, Ga.) finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, while freshman guard Marshay White (Rochester, N.Y.) scored in double figures for the fifth consecutive game with 10 points. Senior guard Amber Long (Irmo, S.C.) provided a key spark off the bench in the second half, scoring nine points during the team's late rally. She was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field in the game.
"I am extremely proud of Amber and her aggressiveness on offense tonight," Williams said. "She is a senior and has been in these situations. We needed energy, especially on the defensive end, and that's why we put her in the game. We can always count on Amber for defensive energy. That's what she brings and, when she scores, that's a bonus because she's certainly capable. A lot of times, we get on her because she's not looking to score, but she really did that tonight. Those nine points she hit were huge for us."
The Knights were strong on the boards in the second half, winning the game's rebound battle 40-36, after being out-rebounded 21-19 in the opening period.
"We did a much better job in the second half of blocking out, but what happens sometimes is that we give up critical offensive rebounds at critical times," Williams said. "That's what we're learning through experience - when the game is on the line, we have to be able to get stops. Blocking out and getting a rebound is key part of a defensive stop."
UCF shot 44.1 percent (30-of-68) from the floor in the game and limited the Lady Tigers to 43.8 percent (28-of-64) shooting from the floor. The Knights' post presence came up big as UCF out-scored Memphis 44-24 in points in the paint.
Freshman guard Angelica Mealing (Decatur, Ga.) had a strong game, finishing with five rebounds, five assists and three steals. Freshman guard Chelsie Wiley (Riviera Beach, Fla.) chipped in nine points, including a 3-for-3 mark from the charity stripe, and four boards.
The two teams battled closely for the game's first nine minutes of the game before back-to-back baskets by Memphis' Jessica Hall and a three-pointer by Alex Winchell comprised a 7-0 run that put the Lady Tigers ahead 18-12 with 9:42 to go until intermission. The Knights then used a 7-3 run over the next 1:40 to pull within two, 21-19 after a fast-break lay-up by D'Nay Daniels (Atlanta).
With UCF trailing by just three, 26-23, with 4:41 remaining, Memphis' Paris Leonard and Winchell knocked down consecutive three-pointers in a 38-second span to push its lead out to nine, 32-23. That was the beginning of an 18-8 run by the Lady Tigers that closed out the half and sent Memphis into the locker room with an 11-point, 42-31, advantage at intermission.
The Lady Tigers blistered the nets in the first half, shooting 50.0 percent (16-of-32) from the floor and knocking down six three-pointers. The Knights made 37.8 percent (14-of-37) of their shots in the opening period.
UCF scored four consecutive points out of intermission after a pair of free throws and a lay-up by Wiley to cut the Knights deficit to nine, 44-35, at the 18-minute mark. Memphis then nailed three consecutive baskets in a 21-second span after a turnover-induced flurry by the Knights that pushed its lead out to 15, 50-35.
UCF responded with a 15-4 streak that included nine points from Long to whittle its deficit down to four, 54-50. The run was capped off by a three-pointer from the right wing by Long at the 13:40 mark of the second half. After a Memphis basket, Cannon connected on back-to-back lay-ups to knot the score at 56-all with 8:28 remaining in the game and cap off a 21-6 run. The Lady Tigers, however, responded by scoring 22 of the game's final 34 points en route to the victory.
"Mentally, we've got to be a lot more focused," Williams said. "When we tie the game up, I think a lot of times, we just relax a little bit. We can't relax. That's the one thing that we're trying to impress to them - we can't relax until the horn sounds. We did and Memphis took advantage of that. Jessica Hall really put her team on her shoulders."
Hall scored a game-high 21 points to lead Memphis. Leonard followed in the scoring column with 18 points, while forward Ashley Thornton notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
UCF returns to action Friday when it travels to Huntington, W.Va., to face Marshall. Tip-off in the Cam Henderson Center is slated for 7 p.m. and the game will be carried live on UCFAthletics.com with Scott Adams.
UCF will play host to the 2008 Conference USA Women's Basketball Tournament, March 6-9, at the new UCF Arena. Single-game and session ticket packages are now available. Call the UCFAA Ticket Sales Office at 407-823-1000 to order or for more information. For the latest news and information on the Knights, tickets or apparel log on to www.ucfathletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. Also check out UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.