UCF women’s basketball rally falls short against No. 25 Temple

No. 25 ranked Temple’s talented backcourt turned out to be the least of UCF’s concerns during a 66-60 loss Monday night.Instead, the Knights were their own biggest hurdle, recording 18 turnovers and a slow first quarter start that helped shut down what...

UCF women’s basketball rally falls short against No. 25 Temple

No. 25 ranked Temple’s talented backcourt turned out to be the least of UCF’s concerns during a 66-60 loss Monday night.

Instead, the Knights were their own biggest hurdle, recording 18 turnovers and a slow first quarter start that helped shut down what could have been the second upset of a ranked team at CFE Arena during a 48 stretch.

UCF outscored Temple for three of four quarters, outperformed in field goal shooting percentage, and outrebounded its opponent 40-29.

“The start of the game, we didn’t come out really attacking,” said UCF coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson. “I think there were some ghosts of the past … but [Temple] is the No. 2 team, they’re really athletic and I feel like we were backing up a little bit because we were afraid we were gonna get beat off our dribble in our press.”

Abrahamson-Henderson added, “this is gonna be a great week because they’re gonna be able to watch this game and so now I can use it to get them ready to go.”

She said her team was likely a little thrown off by Temple’s defense. The Owls usually play man-to-man, but they switched to more zone sets against the Knights, leaving their perimeter shooters with more open looks.

Aliyah Gregory led UCF with 19 points, senior guard Zykira Lewis added 10 points and the team’s only other senior Joslyn Massey almost finished with a double-double, posting 11 rebounds and nine points. 

Temple guards Feyonda Fitzgerald, Alliya Butts and Tanaya Atkinson combined for 60 of the team’s 66 points. 

“I really would have liked to get the win, but my teammates, we fought,” Lewis said. “We just didn’t come out with the win but it’s gonna help us with the [conference] tournament with the momentum that we have.”

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson recaps UCF loss to No. 25 Temple

Katie Abrahamson-Henderson recaps UCF loss to No. 25 Temple

Even with all the turnover problems and the seven steals Temple tallied in the third quarter alone, UCF rallied in the final two minutes of the game after Temple was called for three consecutive fouls, sending the Knights into the bonus. Fifi Ndour banked in two freethrows to cut the Owls’ lead 58-55. The Knights started the fourth quarter in a 15-point hole. 

UCF struggled to execute offensively and was forced to foul Temple, which attempted to drain the clock in the final minute. The Owls made their final six points from the free-throw line. 

“We tend to beat ourselves when we lose games and these are close games we’re losing, so obviously we’ve got to be ready to go in the tournament knowing that we can compete with anybody,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “In every game that we’ve played, we’ve been in [it] besides one.”

Despite the loss, UCF took a major step forward under the new coaching staff.

Abrahamson-Henderson guided the Knights (19-10 overall, 9-7 American Athletic Conference) to more wins in her first season than the school had seen in the past two years collectively (16). It was also the school’s first winning season since 2010-11.

UCF grabbed a historic victory against rival USF, ranked No. 22 at the time during the Knights’ Feb. 14 win.

Overall, the Knights went 6-2 in the month of February before the Owls (23-6 overall, 13-3 AAC) snapped their six-game win streak.

“We have a very high ceiling and I think playing teams like Temple and the win we got against USF earlier this season, those kind of wins show us what we can do when we really play up to our potential,” Gregory said. 

UCF, which was projected to finish eighth in the conference before the season, will enter the American Athletic Conference tournament in Connecticut this weekend as the No. 4 seed.

sgreen@orlandosentinel.com

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