April 29, 2011
By Pat Salvas
UCFAthletics.com ORLANDO, Fla. (UCF Athletics.com) - Last week, the list of the Top 10 UCF women's basketball games of the 2010-11 season was announced. This week, the Knights' Top 10 moments of their championship season is unveiled. It figures that since the team claimed its second title in three seasons, much of these moments come from the immediate run up to the league tournament and national postseason appearance.
1. Winning C-USA Championship
Like the list of top games, there was little doubt that this would be the top moment. With a 12-point lead and the win secured, the Knights waited for the clock to expire on their second Conference USA Championship in three seasons. UCF completed the season sweep of Tulane, the team that knocked them out of the previous season's conference tournament, with an 85-73 victory in the title game. With confetti falling the ceiling of the Don Haskins Center in El Paso, the Knights congregated at midcourt to receive the trophy and take the ceremonial picture before making their way to the baskets to cut down the nets.
2. Playing in the NCAA Tournament
Following the win in El Paso, the Knights made their way north to take on Ohio State in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes had the luxury of hosting the first two rounds of the tourney at St. John Arena in Columbus. With a distinct home-court advantage, the Buckeyes defeated the Knights, 80-69, on March 19. But don't let the 11-point margin of victory fool you, this game was played much closer than that with UCF opening the eyes of many around the nation to their stellar play and style of basketball this season.
3. Coach Joi Williams' 100th Career Victory
It took until Jan. 6 for the Knights to claim the eighth win of the season needed for head coach Joi Williams to earn the 100th victory of her career. The Knights' complete team effort and outstanding defensive effort lifted them to a 13-point win over Rice, 81-68, to open the C-USA schedule. The win came in the Owls' Tudor Fieldhouse and away from home, but that did little to damage the spirits of the UCF contingent after the win. Both Aisha Patrick and D'Nay Daniels scored 21 points and the Knights recorded 16 steals and forced 20 Rice turnovers en route to the 1-0 conference mark. The defensive effort demonstrated and the league win earned were both signs of things to come the rest of the way for the Black and Gold.
4. Gevenia Carter's Half-Court Buzzer Beater to Beat UTEP
In a season ultimately defined by team play and sacrifice for the greater good of the program, there was one individual play that stood out. Against UTEP, sophomore Gevenia Carter connected on a half-court buzzer beater to win the game, 68-65. Carter's shot saved the Knights from what appeared to be an unnecessary overtime period just a few minutes earlier. UCF had a 12-point halftime lead and held an advantage for most of the second half before the Miners mounted a late comeback that tied the game with just under five seconds remaining. After taking the ball in the backcourt, Carter was freed up by a screen from junior Ashia Kelly that allowed the sophomore reserve guard to rid some defensive pressure. Carter got just inside the mid-court line before releasing a shot that found nothing but the bottom of the net as the horn sounded and the backboard was filled with the familiar red light of a game-winning shot. The referees reviewed the play, but all that did was allow the Knights to celebrate again when the officials confirmed what the players and Carter already knew.
5. Senior Night
Head coach Joi Williams had been waiting for this night since her first day on the job. She may have even been dreading it because it was symbolic that this group, the one that came into the UCF family with her four years prior, would soon be finishing their journeys with the basketball program. But what a way to finish. Junior Aisha Patrick honored injured senior Angelica Mealing by unveiling during starting lineups that she would wear Mealing's No. 3 jersey for the final game of the season instead of her own No. 10 uniform. Daniels, Mealing, Chelsie Wiley, Jelisa Caldwell and Leah Paige were all honored following the game in a ceremony with family and friends that was a tribute to their outstanding careers at UCF.
6. Jelisa Caldwell's 30-Point Night Against Jacksonville
Often overlooked because of some of the other names on the roster, Jelisa Caldwell had a breakout game on Dec. 20 against Jacksonville. The senior, who was almost always seen as a valuable role player, exploded for a career-high 30 points against the Dolphins on 12-of-19 shooting from the floor. Caldwell's 30-point effort was the first by a UCF player in two seasons and earned Caldwell the C-USA Player of the Week award for the first time in her career. This game was a stepping stone for Caldwell, who would eventually go on to earn C-USA Championship MVP in March.
7. D'Nay Daniels' 1,000th Career Point
Perhaps the most bittersweet moment of the season came as senior D'Nay Daniels scored the 1,000th point of her career in the Knights' 74-53 loss at Memphis on Jan. 20. The senior needed just six points to reach the milestone scoring mark, a figure most anticipated would come sooner rather than later. As fate would have it, it would come in the first half, but not in the timely manner which many UCF fans would've thought. Daniels was knocked to the floor while going for a rebound early on. The subsequent pileup led to Daniels having her front tooth knocked out. After just a few short minutes on the bench, the senior forward returned to the floor, where a mid-range jumper from the baseline would secure the sixth point needed to reach 1,000.
8. Chelsie Wiley Breaking the UCF Career 3-Point Record
In the C-USA title game against the Green Wave, Wiley hit one 3-pointer to move into a first-place tie in UCF history for most career treys (213), equaling former-Knight Francine Houston ('07). Ironically, the initial ruling on the floor was that the shot was a two-point field goal. But after review by the officials, it was determined that Wiley was behind the line and the shot was in fact a 3-pointer. Wiley did not connect on another the remainder of the game. Wiley would break the tie and the record with one trifecta against the Buckeyes in the NCAA Tournament to take sole possession of first place all-time at UCF with the 214th 3-pointer of her career.
9. Knights Respond
If an outsider learned anything about this group of players it would be that they responded well when challenged. Twice this past season was the team lectured by an authoritative figure and both times they responded. The first came in the form of a 90-minute speech from Director of Athletics Keith Tribble following the Knights' loss at ECU. Following Tribble's speech UCF ran off 11 straight wins, starting with a 61-48 road win over Tulsa on Feb. 6. The Knights were challenged again at halftime of their C-USA Championship quarterfinal matchup with UAB, but this time it came from Joi Williams. After a dismal first half that saw her team score a season-low 12 points, Williams called out her team with a fiery speech that left several of her players trembling. The Knights used that as motivation, playing a far more inspired second half that eventually led to a 51-47 victory and a spot in the C-USA semifinals. The 15-point deficit overcome by the Knights against the Blazers was the largest of the season and helped propel them into position to claim another title.
10. Exacting revenge on Tulane
There was little doubt all season what the one motivating factor for UCF was. It has been posted on the white board in the Knights' dressing room since late March 2010 and simply read: "63-62". That was the score of last season's quarterfinal loss to Tulane. UCF held a late lead in that game, but squandered the chance to put the Green Wave away, falling to the eventual champs by one point. This season was a bit different as the Knights used a comeback of their own in the one regular season meeting between the two, overcoming a 10-point deficit to force overtime where they prevailed 73-69. That would have been satisfying enough for UCF had the postseason not play out the way it did as UCF and Tulane met again in the C-USA Championship Game in El Paso on March 12. Despite a 9-0 by the Green Wave midway through the second half to pull to within two, 70-68, the score was never a true indicator of the Knights' dominance in the game. When the buzzer sounded and the confetti fell, not only had UCF won the title, but they had also finally moved past the March 2010 loss that ultimately defined the 2010-11 season.