UCF junior guard Kay Kay Wright led the way as UCF bounced back to win the home opener against the Richmond Spiders on Saturday.
The Knights defeated the Spiders 70-48 to open their home schedule in a commanding fashion. Wright led the Knights in points as she scored a team high of 14 points. Wright also led in two other categories: rebounds and assists, with five each.
Wright stressed the importance of getting the first home win of the season.
“This is very important to us,” Wright said. “We don’t have very many home games, so it’s just important to take it one game at a time and just knock them all down as we go.”
After four games on the road, the Knights (4-1) came home to host the UCF Thanksgiving Classic at the CFE Arena on Saturday afternoon. UCF got back on track against Richmond (1-5) after losing their first game this season on Wednesday against the Central Michigan Chippewas. The Knights were on a three-game winning streak before falling to the Chippewas.
UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said they were glad to be home.
“I’m really excited to see the white [home] uniforms,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “I’ve never seen them, they’re new. And we’ve been on the road for so long.”
The Knights and the Spiders came into the game having met only twice before. Heading into the game, the series was tied at 1-1, with both previous meetings having taken place in Orlando.
Richmond was the first on the board by way of junior forward Jaide Hinds-Clarke. UCF senior guard Sydnee McDonald responded with a three-point jumper off a fast break. From then on, the Knights never looked back and never lost the lead.
UCF played their usual high-press defense from the beginning and led comfortably through the game. UCF was up 27-19 at halftime, turning up the intensity in the last two quarters and running away with the game. A series of defensive stops in the fourth quarter led to a flurry of unanswered points by the Knights.
UCF’s biggest lead came during the fourth quarter as they led Richmond by 29 points. Their best scoring run also came during the fourth quarter as they scored 11 points.
Abrahamson-Henderson said the press and intensity are a crucial part of her team’s game.
“I always say the first five minutes of the first quarter and the first five minutes of the third quarter are the biggest quarters ever,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We always try in the first five minutes of the third quarter to be super aggressive offensively.”
The intensity of the press showed in the final quarter. The Knights had six steals — out of 13 steals total — during that period. UCF scored a total of 25 points from turnovers during the game. Senior guard Kayla Thigpen had the most steals with seven, a career high.
Thigpen attributed the team’s good performance to their communication.
“Communication is always important,” Thigpen said. “We always get yelled at for not talking, so we emphasize on talking a lot.”
Aside from Wright, the other top performers for UCF were Thigpen and sophomore forward Masseny Kaba. Thigpen finished with 11 points, three rebounds and two assists. Kaba finished with 10 points and three rebounds.