The UCF women’s basketball team fell to Arizona State 60-45 Friday night, cutting their NCAA Tournament journey and season short at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida.
UCF found its rhythm in the final quarter, but it was too late. The Knights, who ended the season at 26-7 with the loss, scored 15 points in the final quarter. They held the Sun Devils (21-10) to 12 points. It was the only quarter that UCF outscored the Sun Devils.
Junior guard Kay Kay Wright scored 11 of her 18 points in the second half of the game. She was also the only player to score in double-figures for the Knights.
“I think we were prepared for this moment,” Wright said. “Our coaches had a great game plan for us. We were ready for this game. And I think if we would have hit some more shots early on, it would have been a different game.”
The Knights pressed the Sun Devils defensively from the beginning, but quick ball movement broke the defense quickly. Most of the scoring from Arizona State came from down low, with 32 points coming in the paint.
Both senior guard Jamesha Paul and sophomore forward Masseny Kaba brought in eight points for the Knights. Paul scored all of her eight points in the third quarter, and Kaba scored half of her total in the fourth.
UCF was more efficient on offense in the third quarter, scoring 14 points after scoring single-digits in both of the first two quarters. With less than two minutes left in the third quarter, the Knights showed tenacity despite being down by as many as 22 points. They cut the lead to 18 at one point after scoring six points in the paint.
UCF coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said early fouls and an inability to knock down shots hurt the Knights as the game came to a close.
“I think what really hurt us honestly is that we got into some foul trouble," Abrahamson-Henderson said. "We had a lot of people on the bench."
Arizona State head coach Charli Turner Thorne said the team's game plan was to shut down Wright from the beginning.
“I thought we did really good on [Wright] in the first half [with our press]. We let up a little bit, you know, down the stretch,” Turner Thorne said. “…I thought it was key that we locked her down and didn’t let her get going.”
Redshirt senior guard Nyala Shuler had six rebounds to lead the team, with five of them coming on the defensive end. She said resiliency was something that the team learned all year long from its coach.
“We just decided we weren’t going to go out on a bad note and we were going to play hard and give it our all,” Shuler said.
Abrahamson-Henderson said she was proud of what the team was able to accomplish this year.
“They pretty much accomplished every single goal that we set out in the beginning of the year,” she said. “…I told them to keep their heads up because – especially our seven seniors – what they’ve done for this program is just really amazing.”