March 7, 2014
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By Jenna Marina
UNCASVILLE, Conn. (UCFKnights.com) - It had the potential to be a storybook ending. Trailing by 2 points with 2.9 seconds left on the clock, the UCF women's basketball team called a timeout to draw up one final play.
The ball inbounded to forward Brittni Montgomery, who tossed it to guard Andrea Hines. She put the ball on the floor, and with about three-quarters of the court left ahead of her, she heaved a Hail Mary that hit the glass and rimed out, dashing the Knights' hopes of advancing any further in the inaugural American Athletic Conference Tournament.
UCF fell 54-52 in Friday's first-round action against Cincinnati at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. The Knights finished the year 10-20, with a 3-15 record in conference play.
All-Conference freshman Zykira Lewis led her team in scoring for the seventh-straight game, notching 15 points. She ended the year with nine-straight games of double figures - the best such output of any Knight this season.
Hines added 10 points and Montgomery was just short of a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds.
After recording a game-high and season-high 13 rebounds, senior Erika Jones ended her career with a total of 883 boards, good enough for third in program history.
"Obviously, we're not happy with the result but just happy with how our team battled," UCF head coach Joi Williams said. "Our basketball team has been through a whole lot this year and losing a senior starter as late as Tuesday morning was a big blow, but, you know, I really felt that we battled hard at the end. We had a quick turnaround to get a game plan together with a whole new lineup so I'm just really proud of how well they fought tonight."
The Knights were forced to enter the tournament without senior leader Sara Djassi, who missed the game due to medical reasons. But in the opening minutes, the Knights were clicking with energy to hop out on an 8-2 run as if they were playing for her.
Although Cincinnati was able to rally and tie the score twice through the second half, the Knights could always find a way to chip in a quick basket to reclaim their lead.
While Cincinnati was held without a field goal for the final three minutes of the first half Stephanie Taylor's offensive rebound and putback made it seem that UCF would head into the locker room with a 26-22 halftime advantage.
But the Knights picked up their seventh team foul with 37.5 seconds left and Alyesha Lovett hit nothing but net with her bonus free throws to inch it back to a one-possession game at the break.
Cincinnati used a 16-4 run to take a 10-point lead, 40-30, before Hines snapped UCF's cold spell with a jumper near the free throw line at 12:54 remaining.
UCF gradually shrank the deficit and came within 46-45 when Lewis drained the team's first 3-pointer of the game with 5:23 to go, but the Bearcats' Jeanise Randolph gave her team some breathing room with a jumper.
UCF made a final push to steal the lead in the final 30 seconds when Hines hit a jumper and stole the ball that eventually led to a Montgomery layup off an inbounds play, 54-52, but the Knights would get no closer.