Feb. 22, 2008
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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - Six UCF players scored in double figures for the first time this season and the Knights made 12-of-14 free throws in the game's final 64 seconds to defeat Tulane, 77-71, on Friday in the New UCF Arena. UCF earned its ninth victory of the season to give the Knights their most wins since the 2004-05 campaign with three games still remaining in the regular season.
UCF (9-17, 2-11 Conference USA) led by four, 65-61, with 3:13 remaining before the Green Wave (14-12, 4-9 C-USA) ran off four consecutive points to knot the score at 65-all with 2:07 left. Freshman guard Chelsie Wiley (Riviera Beach, Fla.) made a pair of free throws at the 1:51 mark and Tulane's Megan Valicevic missed a three-pointer from the left corner on the next possession. The Green Wave began fouling to attempt to stay in the game, but the Knights capped off their best free-throw shooting night of the season with clutch charity shots down the stretch.
"I'm just really proud of this basketball team," UCF head coach Joi Williams said. "The team effort, especially on the defensive end, really solidified the win for us. We showed a lot of maturity tonight and I'm just so proud of them to see how far we have come. We showed great concentration and focus from the free-throw line. I can't say enough about how proud I am of the effort we showed tonight. They really deserved this win."
Wiley led the team's most balanced scoring effort of the season with a team-high 14 points, including a 6-for-6 performance from the free-throw line. Freshman guard Angelica Mealing (Decatur, Ga.) followed with 12 points and seven rebounds. Emma Cannon (Rochester, N.Y.) and D'Nay Daniels (Atlanta) each chipped in 11 points, while freshman forward/center Tia Lewis (Poulan, Ga.) added 10 points and a squad-best eight rebounds. She led the team in rebounding for a squad-best 19th time.
"This was our best two halves put together of the season," Williams said. "We were a little shaky to come out and start the second half. We had turnovers on six of our first seven possessions and had to kind of settle down. I was proud of the way we bounced back and just got stops. That was one thing we keyed on - getting consecutive defensive stops. We did that tonight and I think that if we do that every time out, we put ourselves in a great position to win games. Our team is buying into that more and more. They see that defense and rebounding is going to make us successful, and we did that tonight."
The Knights shot 45.3 percent (29-of-46) from the floor and limited the Green Wave to just 38.2 percent (26-of-68) shooting from the field. UCF held the Tulane without a three-pointer (0-of-14), marking the first time in conference play this season that the Knights have held an opponent scoreless from beyond the arc. UCF made 16-of-20 free throws for a season-best 80 percent efficiency clip from the charity stripe.
"I think there has been a lot of growth," Williams said. "I think everybody can see that. Our coaching staff certainly sees that and I think our players can feel it. They're getting more and more comfortable and they know what those situations are like. It's tough to practice that. With the adrenaline that's going on during the course of a game, it's tough to simulate. But, we've been through it enough now that I think we really know what to do. We really know how to take care of the ball and we know what to expect. It makes a lot of difference having gone through that before."
UCF quickly broke out to a 12-4 lead to begin the game after a jumper by Daniels at the 14:46 mark of the opening period. Tulane began cutting into its deficit to knot the score at 18-18 with 9:33 remaining until intermission after a 14-6 run that was capped off by an Ashley Langford basket. After two more ties, the Knights, who led 33-31 at the four-minute mark, scored seven unanswered points to lead by nine, 40-31, on a Daniels hoop with 2:23 remaining. UCF took a 40-35 advantage into the locker room at halftime after exploiting Tulane's miscues for a 20-8 advantage in points off of turnovers.
The Green Wave stormed out of the locker room to knot the score at 40-40 on a basket by Alendra Brown at the 17:40 mark. The Knights built their lead back out to seven, 47-40, after junior center Jackie Akers (Cape Coral, Fla.) blocked a Tulane shot at one end of the floor and came down for a jumper on the other end of the court. The Green Wave came within three points on several occasions, but UCF was always able to answer with a basket at key times. A jumper by Lewis with 6:19 remaining gave the Knights their biggest lead of the game at 11, 63-52, before the Green Wave attempted to make a late-game rally.
Alendra Brown led Tulane with a game-high 19 points and nine boards, while Chassity Brown added 15 points.
UCF returns to action Sunday when it plays host to No. 19 UTEP, the Conference USA leader, on Senior Day. Tip-off in the New UCF Arena is slated for 2 p.m. and the game will be carried live on UCFAthletics.com with Scott Adams. It will mark the final regular-season home game for senior guard Amber Long (Irmo, S.C.).
UCF will play host to the 2008 Conference USA Women's Basketball Tournament, March 6-9, at the new UCF Arena. Single-game and session ticket packages are now available. Call the UCFAA Ticket Sales Office at 407-823-1000. For the latest news and information on the Knights, tickets or apparel log on to www.ucfathletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. Also check out UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.