March 6, 2008
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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Freshman UCF forward Emma Cannon (Rochester, N.Y.) notched her 12th double-double of the season Thursday and the 12th-seeded Knights nearly knocked off fifth-seeded Southern Miss in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament before falling 74-72 in the New UCF Arena.
The Knights (10-20), who trailed the Lady Eagles (18-12) by seven, 69-62, with 27 seconds remaining, rallied to come within three, 72-69, with 10 seconds left in the game after a three-pointer by freshman guard D'Nay Daniels (Atlanta) from the left wing gave UCF a shot to win the game and brought the crowd to its feet. The Knights were forced to foul on Southern Miss' final possession. Pauline Love hit two free throws with six seconds left to make it a two-possession game. Freshman guard Angelica Mealing (Decatur, Ga.) nailed a trey as time expired to make the final margin.
"I thought this was a hard-fought game tonight," UCF head coach Joi Williams said. "We came out and they [Southern Miss] made a couple of big runs, but I was proud of the way our basketball team fought back at the end of the game. I am excited about the future. Obviously, we hated to lose the game today. We were in it to win, but we are very excited about the future of UCF women's basketball. My team has grown tremendously from summer school back in June until now."
Cannon had a game-high 19 points and a game-high 13 rebounds to lead four UCF players who scored in double figures. Daniels followed with 18 points, six rebounds and three steals, while freshman forward/center Tia Lewis (Poulan, Ga.), the 2007-08 Conference USA Freshman of the Year, tallied 13 points and just narrowly missed her 15th double-double with nine rebounds in just 25 minutes of action. Freshman guard Marshay White (Rochester, N.Y.) chipped in 12 points.
Lewis finished the season with a school single-season record 345 rebounds, after having broken the previous record last Saturday in a win at Memphis.
Defense and rebounding, as it has all season long, helped the Knights hang tough with the Lady Eagles. UCF brought down 25 offensive rebounds and held a 40-37 edge on the boards. The Knights shot 37.8 percent (28-of-74) from the floor in the game, and forced Southern Miss into 19 turnovers. The Lady Eagles made 44.4 percent (24-of-54) of their shots from the field and made 91.7 percent (22-of-24) of their charity shots.
The Knights held All-Conference USA first-team selection Pauline Love, the league's leading scorer at 16.8 points per game, to just 13 points in the game and two points in the first half.
The two teams battled evenly for the early part of the game before Southern Miss, which trailed 10-8, used an 11-0 run to go ahead 19-10 on a pair of free throws by Liz Biland with 13:27 left in the opening period. A Daniels jumper at the 19:17 mark ended the scoring streak by the Lady Eagles, but from there, Southern Miss went on a 6-2 run that extended its advantage to 25-14 after a three-point play by Amber Eugene. The Lady Eagles continued adding to their lead to go up 29-18 with 5:50 remaining in the half.
The Knights, however, made a strong comeback to close the first half. Trailing by 13 points, 33-20, with 2:03 left until intermission, the Knights scored the final six points of the half and made a strong defensive stand on Southern Miss' final possession of the half to go into the locker room down seven, 33-26. UCF shot just 29.4 percent (10-of-34) from the floor in the opening period, while the Lady Eagles shot 40.6 percent (13-of-32) and made 5-of-5 free-throw attempts.
The Knights stormed out of the locker room on an 8-2 scoring streak that was capped off by a fast-break lay-up by Daniels at the 18:45 mark to bring UCF within two, 35-33. The Lady Eagles then responded with a 9-0 run of their own over the next 3:03 to push their advantage back out to nine, 44-33, with 15:42 left in the game. UCF scored nine of the game's next 11 points to pull within four, 46-42 on a lay-up by Cannon with 11:09 remaining. After coming within four on a couple of other occasions, a jumper by Lewis in deep at the 6:43 mark whittled the Knights' deficit down to three, 54-51. The two teams hung close until UCF made its late-game comeback.
Andrea Barber led Southern Miss with 15 points. The Lady Eagles advance to play fourth-seeded Houston at 5:30 p.m. on Friday in the New UCF Arena.
Senior guard Amber Long (Irmo, S.C.) played her final game in a UCF uniform. Her trademark during her career with the Knights was defensive intensity, a characteristic of hers that shined under Williams' tutelage.
UCF returns a strong corps of experienced sophomores for the 2008-09 campaign as the Knights' rookies played a greater percentage of the team's minutes (91.0 percent) than any other team in the nation, according to an unofficial survey conducted by Malcolm Butler, Associate Athletics Director at Louisiana Tech University.
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