Feb. 20, 2011
UCF 69, ECU 52
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFathletics.com) - UCF's women's basketball team didn't always succeed on its first try on Sunday, but the Knights were more than willing to try, try and try again.
Showing tremendous grit and hustle, UCF hammered East Carolina on the glass - especially on the offensive end of the floor - and got a career day from junior forward Ashia Kelly in a dominant 69-52 victory at UCF Arena. The win was UCF's fifth in a row and kept the Knights in a second-place tie in Conference USA play.
UCF (16-10 overall and 9-4 in C-USA play) held a whopping 56-35 rebounding advantage, its biggest rebounding margin of the season. The Knights shot just 31.4 percent for the game, but grabbed 28 offensive rebounds. At one point in the first half, UCF had missed 29 of 40 shots, but had pulled in a whopping 19 offensive boards. The 56 rebounds were a season high.
``I thought that was a great effort on the boards and pursuing the ball,'' UCF coach Joi Williams said. ``The next step is putting more of them back in. We challenged them to go hard after boards because we've been so inconsistent in that area. We talked to them about getting to every loose ball and every rebound had to be ours and they had it in their mind. It's a great job and I'm really proud of the effort.''
For UCF, the win was redemption for a 65-58 loss at East Carolina (12-14, 6-7) on Jan. 30. The Knights have not lost since then, stringing together their second five-game winning streak of the season.
``You know how you are supposed to play with a chip on your shoulder? Going into East Carolina the last time, we didn't do very well and didn't do the little things,'' said guard Aisha Patrick, who had 10 points, 13 rebounds, six assists and three steals. ``We came into this game more focused, we rebounded and we were more aggressive with everything that we did. We played hard.''
Kelly, who came into the game averaging just 3.0 points a game and scored just 12 points in the previous five games, scored a career-best 17 points. Kelly hadn't scored double digits all season, but took advantage on Sunday when East Carolina's Jean Best refused to come out of the paint on defense. Seven of Kelly's points came in a 40-second burst of the first half to help the Knights get off to a great start. She made six of 11 shots and a career-high three 3-pointers in the game.
``I was just having a good day, my teammates were finding me and I tried to take advantage of it,'' said Kelly, who broke her previous career high of 16 points last season against Southern Miss. ``I was just open, my teammates were laying off and they gave me the ball and I was able to make a few shots.''
UCF is 11-2 at home this season and 6-1 at home in conference games.
The Knights have three games remaining before the Conference USA tournament begins March 9 in El Paso, Texas. UCF plays at UAB on Thursday and at Southern Miss on Sunday. UCF beat UAB 65-55 on Jan. 13 and beat Southern Miss 67-43 on Jan. 9. The Knights close the regular season on March 3 against Memphis at UCF Arena. That game will be televised nationally by CBS College Sports Network.
UCF entered Sunday with 87 more offensive rebounds more than its foes and averaging 16.4 offensive boards a game. The Knights had already eclipsed that number before halftime. The work on the offensive glass helped the Knights easily eclipse the previous season high of 51 boards against Jacksonville. The Knights have been outshot in their last three games, but they have been able to make up for it with plenty of grit and hard work on the glass.
The only negative of the day for the Knights came under the boards in the closing minutes. As Patrick and D'Nay Daniels (11 points) fought for a rebound, they were pushed together and stayed down for a couple of minutes. Both players are expected to be fine.
``We were doing so well on the boards and they were trying to box me and D'Nay out and we just case into each other,'' Patrick said. ``I hurt my hip and her ankle. I went under her and she fell over me and hit her ankle. I'm fine and she's fine.''
UCF used a tremendous start to the game to jump to a big lead and it held a 31-19 advantage at intermission. The Knights led 11-0 before East Carolina connected on a field goal. And by the time that Chelsie Wiley drilled a free-throw line runner, UCF had a commanding 20-5 lead.
As has been the case of late, UCF hit a lull following its fast start. But the Knights were able to maintain control of the game by outworking East Carolina on the boards. UCF had a 34-13 advantage on the glass in the first half, allowing the Knights to get off twice as many shot attempts (40) as East Carolina (20).
Key among that work on the boards was the staggering 19 offensive rebounds in the first 20 minutes. However, UCF was able to convert those extra chances into just five points. Jelisa Caldwell (14 points, nine rebounds) and Racine Davis both had five offensive rebounds in the first half, while Daniels snagged four early on.
``(East Carolina) did a great job up there against us and we didn't bring a lot of effort and energy. That's something that you have to do on the road. Our guys wanted to prove today that we're a better team,'' Williams said. ``East Carolina is a good team, but we were able to get into them early and sustain.''
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.