Nov. 9, 2009
By John Denton
UCF's women's basketball team got its first taste of playing with a target on its chest Sunday afternoon, and coach Joi Williams was none too pleased with how her Knights responded to that challenge.
It was immensely telling just how far the defending Conference USA champions have come that they were not happy simply by beating St. Leo 67-60 in an exhibition opener. Clearly, Williams expects much more from a team she hopes will exceed last season's accomplishments.
"Not pleased at all. It was very disappointing," Williams said, after UCF had to rally late to hold off St. Leo. "I don't know if our team overlooked them or just wasn't focused, but I thought we had a lot more maturity. We'll learn from this."
UCF rallied back from a 2-11 start to last season, winning 11 of 16 over the final six weeks of the regular season. The Knights then won four games in four days to claim the Conference USA crown. And in the NCAA tournament, UCF played admirably in an 85-80 loss to third-seeded North Carolina.
That success makes UCF an upset target for other teams, and Williams was curious to see how her Knights would respond to such pressure.
"We'll see this every game out," Williams said of St. Leo's upset bid. "One thing we were concerned about as a staff was how we'd handle the success that we had last year. (On Sunday), we didn't handle that very well. We were just fortunate to score a few more points than St. Leo. This hopefully is a wake-up call."
The Knights open the season on Nov. 15 at Middle Tennessee State, a perennial Top 25 program. Williams, who again stacked the schedule with a strong nonconference schedule, said her team will have to play much better than it did in Sunday's exhibition if it wants to be as successful as it was late last season.
, who suffered through a poor shooting first half on Sunday, responded with three consecutive 3-pointers and 18 second-half points for the Knights. Emma Cannon
, Conference USA's preseason Player of the Year, had 14 points and 17 rebounds.
"It's real important for us to come out every game with a lot of intensity and be real aggressive, but that didn't show up on defense and that's why the game was so close," said Cannon, a junior. "We just have to learn from this and build on it."
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.