Game Recap

ORLANDO, Fla. – The University of Central Florida bounced back in a statement game Wednesday night. After losing its past two games, the Knights (14-9, 4-6 in American Athletic Conference) defeated the Houston Cougars (9-15, 2-9 in AAC) 85-59 at CFE Arena in front of an announced crowd of 2,901.

“I said, ‘[Zykira Lewis], have you ever won 14 games since you’ve been here?’ And she got a big smile on her face and said, ‘No, Coach,'” first-year UCF head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson recalled after the game. “It’s these little miracles all the time. And last year, they only won four conference games. And so, I’m like, ‘We got six left, so it’s up to us what you want to do with that.'”

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University of Central Florida forward Tolulope Omokore, right, embraces guard Aliyah Gregory, left, after Gregory scored an and-1 layup during an 85-59 win over the University of Houston at CFE Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Photo by Victor Tan / New Day Review)

An early fourth-quarter  breakdown by the Cougars distorted the overall story of UCF’s win. With just under nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter and the Knights leading 59-53, UCF went on a 20-0 run to effectively put the game out of reach for Houston. That was due largely in part to Houston turning the ball over 11 times in that span.

UCF scored 28 points in the fourth while holding Houston to eight, quarter-highs and lows respectively.

“We talk about fitness all the time. I think if you’re physically fit, you’re mentally tough,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “They got young players. They don’t have a lot of seasoned guards for them, and I knew that. And so I was just kinda picking our poison of when we were gonna get out and press.”

Junior guard Aliyah Gregory helped keep the Knights ahead when she scored all 14 of the Knights’ third-quarter points. Gregory began her effort with just under nine minutes to play in the third with a personal 8-2 run.

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University of Central Florida guard Aliyah Gregory prepares to shoot a free throw during an 85-59 win over the University of Houston at CFE Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Photo by Victor Tan / New Day Review)

She first went 1-for-2 from the free-throw line after getting fouled on a jump shot just outside the paint. Gregory then got a steal of her own that led to an and-1, where she then made the free throw. An Ashley Polacek steal led to Gregory’s 17th and 18th points. Gregory capped off the run with a layup at the 7:11 mark to give the Knights a 51-37 lead.

“I think it was just my teammates looking for me,” Gregory said after the game. “I know I got a couple fast-break layups, and that was just Ashley making an extra pass upward, Zy making the pass up, and I was able to focus and finish those layups. Of course, after you see a couple of those go in, you get going.”

The back-and-forth scoring in the first half eventually began to favor the Knights, as Lewis hit three-straight triples to boost the Knights to their first double-digit lead of the night.

Lewis hit consecutive threes around the six-minute mark in the second quarter to make the score 31-24. At the 1:11 mark, Lewis knocked down her fourth three-pointer of the half for the 43-33 lead.

“I think Ashley did a good job of finding Zy,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “I said in a timeout, ‘Guys, she’s hit three threes, she’s hit four threes—let’s get her the ball, right?'”

Player of the Game: Aliyah Gregory

Gregory scored 28 points, second to only Lewis’ game-high 29. She also tallied seven rebounds, four assists and four steals.

What’s next?

UCF travels to play the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Ashley Polacek Starts…Again

For Abrahamson-Henderson, being in the starting lineup is about who plays defense the hardest. But the first-year UCF head coach wants to get to a point where it doesn’t matter who starts.

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University of Central Florida point guard Ashley Polacek dribbles the ball up the court during an 85-59 win over the University of Houston at CFE Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2017. (Photo by Victor Tan / New Day Review)

“As you see, I’ve mixed up the lineups a lot,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “And our teams are getting to the point—and hopefully this will be the future and the rest of the time—is that it doesn’t matter who starts. And we can bounce different people in different terms of lineups. I mean, Zy wasn’t starting at one point… It’s all about defense in the game we saw them play before and if they were doing their job on defense. I want everyone to buy into defense.”

Polacek finished with a game-high and season-high eight assists. Her previous season-high was four against Southern Methodist University.

“[Polacek’s] a little bit more of a seasoned player, too. So she played a lot with Zy last year,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “So Ashley kind of has a feel for Zy a little bit more than [freshman Korneila Wright] right now, but, obviously, that’s what Kay Kay’s good at doing, too. But I thought Ashley came out to start the game getting Zy the ball. And Zy was knocking them down.”

Highlights

NDR Notes

  • Since joining the AAC in the 2013-14 season, Houston is the only school that UCF has beaten twice in the regular season. The Knights have done that three out of the four seasons in the AAC.
  • Wednesday’s win was the second time the Knights have had two 20-point scorers (Lewis: 29, Gregory: 28).
  • This is Gregory’s second-consecutive 20-point game. In a 63-58 loss to SMU, Gregory also scored 28 points.
  • Polacek made her fifth start of the season. She tallied a game-high eight assists.
  • UCF scored a season-high 85 points in Wednesday night’s win.

Scoring

Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Final
University of Central Florida 18 25 14 28 85
University of Houston 18 15 18 8 59….

 

Statistics and Starting Lineups

Team Leaders

University of Central Florida University of Houston
Points Zykira Lewis (29) Angela Harris (22)
Rebounds Nyala Shuler (8) Serithia Hawkins (8)
Assists Ashley Polacek (8) Angela Harris (5)
Blocks Nyala Shuler (2) Jacqueline Blake, Jasmyne Harris, Sharayla Brown (1)
Steals Aliyah Gregory (4) Angela Harris (4)
Turnovers Aliyah Gregory (6) Angela Harris (9)
Minutes Zykira Lewis (36) Angela Harris (38)

Team Statistics

Rebounds Assists Blocks Steals Turnovers
University of Central Florida 34 18 4 16 21
University of Houston 24 15 3 12 29

Shooting Percentages

University of Central Florida University of Houston
FG% 54.1% 42.2%
3FG% 42.9% 36.8%
FT% 72.2% 87.5%

UCF starting lineup: Ashley Polacek (G), Zykira Lewis (G),  Aliyah Gregory (G), Fifi Ndour (F), Tolulope Omokore (F)

Houston starting lineup: Angela Harris (G), Jasmyne Harris (G), Kierra Graves (G), Jacqueline Blake (C), Sharayla Brown (C)