UNCASVILLE, Conn. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF women’s basketball team was unable to complete its rally, dropping a 74-59 decision to No. 19 USF in the Aaron’s American Athletic Conference Championship semifinal in Mohegan Sun Arena on Monday evening.
For the second straight game, and the eighth time this season, redshirt senior Zakiya Saunders poured in 20 points. The Augusta, Ga., native drained a career-best four three-pointers while grabbing seven rebounds.
After No. 21 USF (26-6) scored the opening basket, UCF (21-10) responded with six points of their own from sophomore Korneila Wright, Saunders and senior Aliyah Gregory to take the lead with 4:58 left in the frame. The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the period, heading into the second quarter tied up at 16.
Despite falling behind by nine points on two occasions in the second quarter, the Knights chipped away over the final 3:20. Gregory hit a jumper with 30 seconds left to pull UCF within three, 33-30, heading into the locker room.
A trio of three-pointers extended the Bulls lead to open the third quarter, but junior Lawriell Wilson scored five points, sinking a free throw on a three-point play, to cut the deficit to nine points, 44-35, with 3:57 left in the period. Wright kept the Knights within striking distance as time wound down, grabbing a rebound and taking it the length of the floor for two points. UCF trailed 49-40 heading into the final 10 minutes.
The Bulls pulled away in the final quarter to take the 74-59 victory.
In addition to her 20 points and seven rebounds, Saunders dished out three assists in 38 minutes of action. Korneila Wright added 12 points with two assists and a pair of steals. Lawriell Wilson and Aliyah Gregory added nine and eight points, respectively. Wilson and redshirt junior Nyala Shuler collected seven rebounds apiece.
The Knights, who have now recorded back-to-back 20-win campaigns for the first time since 1983-85, will await to learn its postseason fate on March 12.