If the UCF women’s basketball team proved anything in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over regular season champion SMU, it’s that the Knights are a force to be reckoned with in their final Conference USA Tournament.
The Knights sent the No. 1 seed home packing with a 70-66 win after battling back from a 10-point, first-half deficit. UCF (15-17) will now face UTEP in Friday’s semifinals at 11 a.m. ET on CBS Sports Network at Tulsa’s BOK Center.
The Knights are the first eight seed since 2001 and just the third all-time to advance to the semifinals.
Much like in Friday’s opening round win, Gevenia Carter stole the show in the first half with 17 points and finished the game with her third-straight 20-point outing.
Freshman Briahanna Jackson took over as the hot hand in the second half with four 3-pointers en route to 18 points. She also rewrote the 25-year-old program record for single-season steals with her four thefts in the game to bring her total to 105.
Junior Sara Djassi proved to be a big boost for the Knights with a season-high 15 points and seven rebounds.
“We just play together,” Carter said. “Coach always tells us to play together as a team and as a family and we’ll be victorious. We knew it was going to be a hard game. We knew SMU is a really good team, but we had confidence in each other and we got the win.”
Carter started the game off with two steals that converted to two layups to help the Knights hop out to an 8-2 lead. SMU woke up and responded with a 23-7 run that was capped by Korina Baker’s steal and fastbreak layup for a 25-15 lead with 8:20 remaining.
UCF buckled down on defense and held SMU (21-9) without a field goal for nearly five and a half minutes while it slowly chipped away at the deficit. When Carter drained a dead-on look at the basket from the top of the arc, she not only shrank the gap to 28-26, but she also jumped into the program’s all-time top-10 scorers list.
Kayli Keough closed out the half with a hustle play that forced a jumpball in UCF’s favor. She then banked a bucket down low to bring her team within 1 point at halftime, 33-32.
SMU rattled off five quick points to start the second half and kept its lead intact through the first 10 minutes. The Knights called a timeout after Gabrielle Wilkins hit a jumper that put the Mustangs up 52-45, and the regrouping worked.
Jackson sank a trio of 3-pointers that fueled a run to put the Knights on top, 58-55, with less than six minutes to play.
The teams exchanged basket after basket before Carter gave UCF a two-possession lead, 66-62, by rebounding her own misfire in the paint and following with a layup with two minutes remaining.
The Mustangs seemed to run out of horsepower at the end while UCF closed out the game at the free throw line.
UCF now holds a 10-5 record in the post-season tournament, which includes a 2-0 mark in semifinal contests. The winner of Saturday’s championship, which will also air on CBS Sports Network, will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
As always, fans can tune into Scott Adams’ free audio broadcast, which is also available on mobile devices. Live stats are also available via UCFAthletics.com.