ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Sensing just what her team needed and adjusting accordingly, UCF junior guard Gevenia Carter switched from playmaker to scorer just in time Thursday night to boost the women's basketball team in overtime.
Carter, who scored a career-best 23 points four days earlier, went into attack mode in the extra period and scored all eight of UCF's points in overtime of a clutch 65-63 defeat of Rice at UCF Arena.
Carter lifted UCF (8-9, 3-2 Conference USA) with one aggressive move after another. She opened overtime with a dazzling three-point play and got into the lane two other times for scores over a shorter defender. She was there to scoop up a critical loose ball with two seconds to play, and her free throw with 1.6 seconds left gave UCF a two-point cushion.
Carter finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.
"We knew where to go once I got on a roll and I was able to take my man," Carter said. "I just went for it because I knew my team needed me more in overtime. I just gave it my all."
UCF gave its all as well, outrebounding Rice, 46-33. The Knights also held the Owls (8-10, 2-3 C-USA) to 35.8 percent from the field and gave up just two field goals and two free throws in overtime to earn the victory. UCF is now 8-5 at home and 3-0 in Orlando in C-USA play.
Head coach Joi Williams, the architect of a UCF program that has won two of last three C-USA titles, shortened her rotation Thursday night and stuck with a game plan of riding the play of Aisha Patrick and Carter. Williams used seven players, and all five starters played at least 35 minutes.
"I just thought that tonight was a tough matchup because we knew Rice would press the entire game," Williams said. "We just wanted players out there who we are sure of handling the ball. It's difficult to use one or two freshmen out there handling that kind of pressure. So it was just how it worked out tonight."
The Knights play next at Marshall on Sunday at 1 p.m. Marshall has been one of the league's surprise teams so far, going 12-5 overall and 3-1 in C-USA play.
"I just told these guys that we can forget about the Marshall of old because they basically have a brand-new team up there," Williams said. "They are very quick and athletic. And it's going to be so important for us to take care of the ball. We had 26 turnovers (versus Rice) and we were still able to pull out the win, but realistically we can't keep doing that, especially on the road."
Patrick drew much of the attention of the Rice defense and still managed to score 15 points, grab nine rebounds and swipe five steals. Junior power forward Kayli Keough scored a team-high 16 points, including a big shot in the final three minutes of regulation to steady UCF's offense.
Sophomore center Erika Jones, C-USA's leading rebounder in conference play, had her fourth double-double of the season with 12 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
UCF got several big plays from Jones, Carter and Keough down the stretch to stay in the lead, but three quick buckets from Rice got the game tied at 57-all. Neither team scored in the final 90 seconds.
Patrick had a contested layup in the final 10 seconds and Carter - who beat UTEP last season with a buzzer-beater - missed a shot at the end of regulation, resulting in the overtime period.
The Knights came out on top thanks in part to Carter's aggressiveness in the overtime period. After struggling with her shot and ball-handling early in the season, Carter has taken her game to another level as of late. At the prodding of a UCF coaching staff that includes Greg Brown and Bob Starkey, Carter is being more aggressive and looking to score when she has a quickness advantage over her defender.
"She is playing with a lot of confidence and she's practicing a lot better," Williams said. "That's where it all starts for her. We've challenged her that she has to bring that game speed and energy every day at practice. She's done that here the last couple of weeks and it's paid off for her.''
Williams said Sunday's big test at Marshall should give her an early gauge on the progress of her team six games into the conference season. UCF has had a knack of steadily improving as the season goes along and hitting the C-USA tourney playing its best basketball. Williams hopes UCF is close to starting another strong run.
"We've been able to defend our home court and hopefully we can watch some of the mistakes that we've made on the road and fix them," Williams said. "The mistakes that we made at Tulane are pretty similar to what we did at UAB. If we can learn from those I think we'll be in the game at Marshall on Sunday."
John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at email@example.com.