March 4, 2010
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (UCFAthletics.com) - One after another, UCF players stepped up and made plays, and one after another, UCF players stepped up and made shots. No player stepped up more than sophomore Ashia Kelly (Longview, Texas), who surpassed her career-high in points in the second half alone and led six players in double figures as the aggressive Knights (10-15, 7-9 C-USA) closed the regular season with an 84-72 victory at Southern Miss (9-20, 5-11) Wednesday night in the regular-season finale for both teams.
"We wanted to come in here tonight and be aggressive offensively, and I tried to do my part to do that for our team," Kelly said. "This is a tough place to play, and since it was Senior Night we knew they would be fired up. We did a good job stepping up to the challenge and ending our regular season on a good note."
Kelly led a Knight offense that shot over 50 percent for the first time in C-USA play. UCF shot over 50 percent in both halves and converted 31-of-58 shots from the field for 53.4 percent.
Junior Angelica Mealing (Decatur, Ga.) tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds for her first career double-double. D'Nay Daniels (14 points), Aisha Patrick (13) and Chelsie Wiley (13) joined Kelly and Mealing as Knight starters in double figures. Junior Emma Cannon (Rochester, N.Y.) came off the bench to add 13 points and eight rebounds.
UCF came out of the break with a 46-35 lead, but saw Southern Miss twice cut the lead to single digits early in the first half. On both occasions, Kelly responded by drilling three-pointers and pushing the Knight lead back above 10 points. The second put UCF up 56-44 with 15:43 remaining, and Southern Miss would not cut the deficit below 10 until there was under a minute to play.
Kelly, battling with Lady Eagles' all-conference player Pauline Love throughout the night, added eight rebounds as UCF outrebounded Southern Miss 43-26. It was the 14th time in 16 C-USA games that UCF had held an edge on the glass.
"Ashia is a player that we have a lot of confidence in on both ends of the floor," said head coach Joi Williams. "She made some key shots when Southern Miss was making a run in the second half, and she also pulled down some important rebounds for us."
Southern Miss led just once in the game and the lead lasted just nine seconds when Candace Rucker hit an early free throw. Mealing then drained a three to jumpstart a 10-2 run and the Knights never looked back.
Led by freshman Kassietta Brown's 11 first-half points, Southern Miss hung around and trailed just 31-27 with less than five minutes before the half. Mealing then scored four points during a 10-0 that propelled UCF to a 46-35 halftime lead.
The win continued UCF's strong play down the stretch as the team gets prepared to defend its 2010 C-USA Tournament beginning Monday in Tulsa. The Knights are 6-3 in their last nine contests.
"It was good to get wins in these last two games on the road," said Williams. "The team played with a lot of confidence tonight and there are a lot of positives to build on as we prepare for next week's conference tournament."
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