March 11, 2011
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By John Denton
EL PASO, Texas (UCFAthletics.com)- Clearly inspired by its first-day struggles in the Conference USA tournament, UCF came out inspired on Friday with arguably its best half of the season and leads Memphis 45-29 at intermission.
The Knights, who needed a 15-point rally to defeat UAB on Thursday, shot 50 percent in the first half and made seven of 10 3-point shots to take a commanding lead in the semifinal game.
UCF led by as much as 22 points (38-16) early in the first half against a Memphis team built around defense and rebounding. UCF dominated the boards early on, holding a 24-14 edge on the glass.
UCF is trying to get back to the C-USA championship for the first time since 2009 when it won the first and only conference title in program history. The winner of the UCF-Memphis game will face the Houston-Tulane winner on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
UCF and Memphis split games during the regular season with each team winning on its home court.
Senior guard Chelsie Wiley, who struggled mightily with her shot on Thursday, has 12 first-half points. She's made four of five shots, two 3-pointers and two free throws.
Junior forward Ashia Kelly, who sparked Thursday's stirring second-half rally with her energy and defense, hit three 3-pointers in the first half and has nine points. UCF made six of its first eight 3-point shots, getting triples from three different players.
The Knights only flaws in the first half were their nine missed free throws and 10 turnovers. Senior forward D'Nay Daniels (seven points) ended the half fittingly enough with a streaking layup to boost the Knights' advantage back up to 16 points.
UCF came out locked in from the start of the game, shooting the ball early on as well as it has at any point this season. UCF made its first five shots and four 3-pointers to race to a 15-4 lead.
By the 8-minute mark of the first half, UCF shockingly led 28-12 - nearly the same score (27-12) that they trailed by at halftime on Thursday against UAB.
The Knights had 12 points in the first 2:51 of Friday's game - as many as they had in Thursday's forgettable first half.
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.