It is no secret that first-year University of Central Florida head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson has emphasized defense. In Sunday’s Thanksgiving Classic game against the Austin Peay Governors the Knights (6-1) showed they got the message, defeating Austin Peay (5-3) 61-49 at CFE Arena.
The tone of the game was set early in the first quarter when the Knights held Austin Peay to a near-scoreless first quarter. The Governors’ Bri Williams hit a buzzer-beating jumper to put the score at 12-2 heading into the second.
Ending with a 10-point lead right out of the first quarter set the pace for the Knights, who went on to lead by double digits in the remaining three quarters. They also outrebounded the Governors 44-32 and tallied 11 steals.
“When [Abrahamson-Henderson] came in [as head coach], she stressed how defense wins games,” sophomore forward Tolulope Omokore said “When we had scrimmages, it took us a while to buy into the defense, but now that we are buying in, we are seeing the results.”
Said Abrahamson-Henderson on the team’s first-quarter performance: “It was really cool to see them come out with a lot of energy, and I really stress the first quarter because we typically don’t come out the first quarter and have a lot of gunship. I don’t know who fired them up—could’ve been [Omokore].”
Omokore finished the game with 12 points and 10 rebounds.
“It felt great,” Omokore said. “This is going to motivate me to continue to get all these rebounds and hopefully get more double digits down the road.”
Guard Zykira Lewis once again delivered an impressive performance, tallying a game-high 19 points. She added five steals, three assists and three rebounds.
The Knights are back on a three-game winning streak and travel to New York on Thursday to take on the Buffalo on Wednesday at 7 p.m. Last season, the Knights fell to the Bulls 66-60 in the lone matchup. Lewis reached the 1,000-point milestone, becoming the 21st Knight to do so in program history.