Jan. 6, 2009
The UCF women's basketball team finished its non-conference schedule with a 2-11 record, but wins and losses do not begin to tell the story of the progress the Knights made against one of the nation's toughest schedules. Playing a slate which is currently ranked as high as the eighth-toughest nationally and included nine schools from the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten and SEC, head coach Joi Williams' team grew tremendously.
According to The College Basketball News women's basketball RPI ratings through games as of Sunday, Jan. 4, UCF has the eighth-toughest strength of schedule in the country, behind only Stanford, Tennessee, Illinois, Hartford, Michigan, Iowa and Oregon. The RPI ratings including strength of schedule can be viewed at http://rpiratings.com/womensrpi.html.
"I think we have improved in toughness, which is not really something tangible, but it is something we have looked at as a coaching staff," said Williams. "We have been in tough games and we have been in deep holes and have been able to fight our way out of each of them. The fact that we have been in every game says a lot about our growth and toughness."
That growth paid dividends immediately as the Knights switched their attention to Conference USA play last Saturday. Hosting Southern Miss, the team picked to win the C-USA title in the preseason coaches poll, UCF took the lead early in the second half and never relinquished it in upsetting the Golden Eagles 65-59.
"Playing teams of the caliber that we have played, and I say this with a great deal of respect for Conference USA, but the teams we have played are teams that play at a very high level conference at a very high level," said Williams. "The intent with that schedule was to play against teams where we would play against some of the best athletes in the country and coach against some of the best coaches in the country. Now that we have reached conference play, I feel there is not a lot that we have not seen."
Entering last Saturday, UCF's 13 non-conference foes had a combined record of 110-49 and included seventh-ranked Baylor (11-1), Wake Forest (12-0) and Wisconsin (12-2). The Knights also played road games at Colorado (8-4), Alabama (12-3) and Florida State (12-4), who defeated third-ranked Texas A&M 60-53 Monday night.
With a 2-11 record and a schedule like the one Williams' team played, one might think that UCF was an easy victory for some major conference schools. However, the Knights held second-half leads in 10 of the 13 contests.
"Our team did a pretty good job of staying confident. It is tough, and we went through a couple of tough stretches," said Williams. "Nobody likes to lose, but when we were able to go back and evaluate the games we played, and even our players, we knew exactly what we did not do and what we needed to get better at. Credit our staff for staying positive with them and knowing our record was not reflective of who we were. We knew we were better than that record."
The victory over Southern Miss is an early indication that the schedule was just what the Knights needed in preparation for league play, and UCF will get to test that theory on the road later this week. Williams' team plays at Memphis Thursday night before a trip to UAB on Saturday.
Sophomore Chelsie Wiley (Riviera Beach, Fla.) has been a key to UCF's offense of late, scoring in double figures in six-straight games. During the stretch, which included three games of 20-plus and a 31-point outburst against Ole Miss, Wiley has averaged 18.5 points per game and knocked down 19 threes.
DOIN' IT ALL
Freshman Aisha Patrick (Rockledge, Fla.) continued her strong all-around play in the Knights' win against Southern Miss. The 5-foot-9 first-year player did not miss a beat in her first C-USA outing, tallying 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds while also swiping a career-high five steals.
FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
UCF earned a couple of school first in dispatching Southern Miss Saturday. It was the Knights' first win in 13 all-time meetings with the Golden Knights, and the victory also marked the program's first in four C-USA openers since joining the league. Each of the openers has been played against Southern Miss.
Despite establishing herself as the team's starting point guard, sophomore Angelica Mealing (Decatur, Ga.) had struggled offensively prior to the Southern Miss game. The southpaw, known to most as "Jelly," was 0-for-15 in the team's previous two games. However, Mealing came alive with 13 points against the Golden Eagles. She knocked down a key three in the second half, calmly sank 6-for-7 from the line and chipped in seven rebounds.
Season tickets for the UCF women's basketball program are currently on sale through the UCF ticket sales office. For more information about the arena's premium seating options, including club seats, group discounts, courtside tables and suites, contact the UCF ticket sales office at (407) UCF-1000 or visit the women's basketball ticket page at UCFAthletics.cstv.com/tickets/w-baskbl-tickets.html.
For the latest news on the Knights, log on to UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.