UNCASVILLE, Conn. (UCFKnights.com) – Sunday night was historic on many levels for the UCF women’s basketball team. The Knights used a 66-58 semifinal win over Cincinnati in Mohegan Sun Arena to win their program-record 26th game of the season and advance to the American Athletic Conference championship game for the first time since the league’s inception in 2013.
“Wow,” UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “I’m so proud of these young women. It’s kind of fitting the Nike (warm-up) shirts say UCF family. When we went in the locker room I just said, ‘Families back each other up. You guys are my daughters. You guys are your sisters. We’re going to stick together, we’re going to play hard, we’re going to stay focused. This is our time. We are going to try to get in this championship game.’ And everybody really stepped up.”
The second-seeded Knights (26-5) and third-seeded Bearcats (21-10) matched each scoring run that the other team was able to put together. Heading into the fourth quarter, neither team was able to take more than a five-point lead at any point. The Knights led 19-17 after the first quarter and the teams were knotted at 34 at halftime. After 30 minutes of action, the Black and Gold carried a 46-43 advantage into the final frame.
UCF, as it has nearly all season, turned up its intensity in the fourth quarter. Holding a 50-47 edge with 7:54 remaining, Kay Kay Wright and Lawriell Wilson put together five points in a minute span to push the edge to eight, 55-47, and force Cincinnati to use a timeout.
The Knights refused to let up down the stretch. After the Bearcats pulled within five, 61-56, with 2:29 left to play, Sydnee McDonald drained a three-pointer to push lead back to eight, 64-56. Wright gave UCF its largest lead of the evening, 66-56, with 45 ticks left on the clock and when the buzzer sounded, the Knights had secured their first trip to the league’s title game.
All nine Knights that saw action on Sunday scored at least two points in the win. For the second-straight night, Kay Kay Wright led all scorers with 21 points and pulled down a team-high five rebounds. Masseny Kaba added 13 points.
Notes to Know
Sunday’s victory set a program record for the Knights. The previous record for victories in a season was 25, set by the 1982-83 squad.
UCF advances to its first conference championship contest since the 2012-13 Conference USA title game.
UCF shot 50 percent from the floor while limiting Cincinnati to 38.9 percent.
The Knights extending their win streak to six games while snapping the Bearcats’ five-game win streak. Cincinnati had won its previous five contests by an average of 17.4 points.
Kay Kay Wright’s performance was the 16th time this season that she has finished with 20 or more points.
Wright’s 21 points moved her past Zykira Lewis for third on the single season record chart with 573 this campaign. Her 220 made field goals gave her sole possession of third in a single season.
The Knights will face the top seed, No. 2 UConn, at Mohegan Sun Arena at 7 p.m. on Monday on ESPN2.