Aiming to become the lowest seed in history to win the Conference USA Tournament, the magic ran out too soon for the No. 8 UCF women’s basketball team on Saturday night in its 75-66 loss to host Tulsa.
The Knights fell short of claiming their third title in the past five years, having won the 2009 and 2011 crowns. Saturday’s loss was the team’s first in a C-USA title game appearance and ended a run that included victories over Houston, regular season champion and No. 1 seed SMU and defending tournament champion UTEP.
Junior Erika Jones and freshman Briahanna Jackson were named to the All-Tournament team. Jones registered the third-best rebounding total (44) by a single player in one tournament while averaging a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) during the four days in Tulsa. Jackson averaged 18.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and added a team-best 10 steals.
Senior Gevenia Carter, who led the Knights with 22 points in her final game, tallied 83 points over the four-day span, matching the third-best single-player production in tournament history. Along with Tournament MVP Taleya Mayberry, who scored a new-tournament record 100 points, each player surpassed the mark of the most points scored in one tournament since 2004.
UCF broke the 10-year-old tournament record for most points scored in a single tournament (299). The Knights also shattered the previous record for most field goals made (102; 2002) with 112 baskets. Helping to claim that record, UCF tallied the second-most 3-point field goals in a single tournament (25).
Carter was poised to carry UCF in the first half, just as she had in the previous three games of the tournament, with seven of the team’s first 11 points. But she picked up her second foul at the 13-minute mark and was forced to sit for the next eight minutes.
Jones stepped in as UCF’s go-to scorer while the teams volleyed back and forth for an edge. The Golden Hurricane got their hometown fans on their feet after Mayberry turned back-to-back Knights turnovers into fastbreak layups for a 28-23 lead.
Carter returned and played as if she didn’t miss a beat, sinking 7-straight points, including a 3-pointer that cut the deficit down to 35-32. The Golden Hurricane utilized its frontcourt to chip in a few more buckets before the break to take a 41-34 advantage heading into the locker room.
Although the Knights had a knack for successfully digging themselves out of deficits this season, fate was on Tulsa’s side. The Golden Hurricane used a 9-2 run midway through the second half to take their largest lead, 60-45.
UCF fought until the end and started to come up with defensive stops that had eluded the team earlier in the game. The Knights managed to cut the deficit down to four, 70-66, with 2:02 to go when Jackson found Carter for a jumper, but Tulsa was able to seal the game at the free throw line.
UCF closed its chapter in C-USA with an 11-6 record in the post-season tournament. The team ended the season with a 16-18 record, including a 7-9 mark in conference play, and won nine of their last 13 games.