The UCF women’s basketball team stayed on its winning track Sunday with a 75-49 win over the Delaware Blue Hens at Addition Financial Arena.
The Knights (3-2) are finding their groove, winning their second straight game after losing back-to-back road games against non-conference opponents, Belmont (3-2) and Florida Gulf Coast University (5-1).
Although this is the first meeting between Delaware (0-4) and UCF in Addition Financial Arena, the teams met last year in Newark where the Knights won comfortably 71-60.
UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said this win helped the team develop its identity.
“Some of the players that don’t necessarily like defense or want to play defense actually tried to get after it today,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We have to stick to it, but I always think our identity is going to be the press and the defense.”
The Knights got off to a hot start on both ends of the court, forcing seven turnovers in the first quarter, including four turnovers in four minutes. The Blue Hens shot 31% from the field and only 1-for-4 on three-pointers in the quarter.
That defensive pressure quickly turned into offense as the Knights went on a 17-8 scoring run to start the game. The Knights led by seven after the first quarter, thanks in part to UCF redshirt senior guard Sianni Martin who went 2-for-2 from three-point range.
The second quarter was where the Knights began to change the game. UCF hit 54% of its shots in the quarter, including two three-pointers and five free throws. Defensively, the Knights forced a season-high 11 first half steals with multiple players tallying two or more.
The Knights gained the lead 47 seconds into the game and never lost it. UCF controlled both ends of the court and went to its locker room with a 13-point lead.
UCF senior guard Kay Kay Wright helped set the tone for the team in the first half, tallying only four points but contributing seven assists and three steals. UCF junior guard Georgia Gayle led all scorers in the half with nine points, all of which came from beyond the three-point line.
Defense would be the story of the second half as well, as the Knights continued to rack up steals and force turnovers. UCF finished the game with 15 steals, a season-high for the team. The Knights consistently turned this defense into offense, scoring 19 points off of the Blue Hens' 25 turnovers.
One of the biggest problem areas for the Blue Hens was at the free-throw line, where they only converted 50% of their free throws for the game. Delaware also struggled to get it going from the field as they never shot over 40% in any quarter of the game. The Blue Hens finished the game shooting 34% from the field and 36% from deep.
The Knights’ backcourt was another catalyst for their success. Guards Gayle and Martin finished with 18 and 16 points. Gayle shot 50% on the day and scored all of her points from three-point range. Martin went 6-for-7 from the field including 4-for-4 on three-pointers.
Wright finished the game with a double-double, putting up 11 points and 11 assists. Not to mention her five steals on the other end.
Wright said she’s able to adjust her style of play according to her opponents and she can trust her teammates when things may not be falling her way.
“My focus going into every game is to just be aggressive and to get the win,” Wright said. “Teams are really going to key in on me. I have great shooters on my team so I know when I pass to them they are going to convert.”
Abrahamson-Henderson said Wright was selfless in her play and talked about how that kind of play can change the team’s dynamic on the court.
“She’s doing the things that other players don’t necessarily want to do, like the ‘pretty things’,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “She’s getting down and dirty and doing all the little things.”
Martin said the team has a lot of trust in each other regardless of whether or not their shots are falling.
“Everybody on the team just motivates each other to get better,” Martin said. “We may get down because we miss a couple, but everyone just tells each other ‘keep shooting, keep shooting, keep shooting’.”
UCF faces a short turnaround this week as the Knights will take on the Stetson Hatters (3-3) on Wednesday at 1 p.m., before heading to Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday to play UCLA (4-0) at 4 p.m. in the Cavalier Classic. Then they will play James Madison (5-1) Sunday at 1 p.m.