John Denton's Knights Insider: UCF's Run Halted by Single Point


March 9, 2010

Box Score | Notes | Photo Gallery

By John Denton

TULSA, Okla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Up three points with a minute left on Tuesday, UCF looked poised to not only knock off top-seeded Tulane but also take another step toward recreating last season's stirring run to the Conference USA title.

UCF had taken Tulane's best punches, weathering a push right before the half and another where the Green Wave led by as many as 11 points in the second half. But UCF responded each time and had control of the game with 60 seconds to play. But errors down the stretch - something that didn't happen in Monday's defeat of Marshall, but has been a reoccurring problem most of the season - doomed UCF's chances on Tuesday.

When Chassity Brown converted a fastbreak layup with six seconds left and UCF's Aisha Patrick couldn't made a desperate runner at the horn, the Knights were left with a gut-wrenching 63-62 loss and painful thoughts of what could have been.

``Obviously, we're very disappointed because we came here with great expectations. It's disappointing because we felt like we had the game and let it slip through our hands,'' UCF coach Joi Williams said. ``We have a lot to learn from this game. Hopefully this loss will propel us forward and we'll take it into next season.''

The loss ends a wildly erratic 11-16 season for a Knights team that had hoped to use this tournament to make up for a subpar regular season. UCF returns all of its core players and in many ways is already looking forward to next season.

``Everything happens for a reason and we've just got to come back as seniors next year strong and with more of a sense of urgency,'' said junior forward Emma Cannon, who had 12 points and eight rebounds off the bench. ``Our freshman year when we lost in the first round it drove us to the point where we won the conference championship the next year. We'll remember this feeling because it won't go away. We'll remember this during the offseason and next season.''

Chelsie Wiley, the hero of UCF's overtime defeat of Marshall on Monday, had 16 points and four 3-pointers. Patrick, a sophomore from Rockledge, played all 40 minutes and had 10 points and 14 rebounds.

UCF outrebounded Tulane 45-35 and pulled down a whopping 24 rebounds, but turned the opportunities into only 17 second-chance points.

In so many ways, the game was reminiscent of late January in Orlando when Tulane rallied from 10 down with five minutes to play for a 72-70 defeat of the Knights.

Two critical moments late in the game hurt the Knights and paved the way for Tulane's rally from three points down in the final minute. D'Nay Daniels was whistled for an offensive foul with 1:02 remaining for throwing an elbow, giving the ball back to Tulane, who promptly scored.

Then, Ashia Kelly missed an open 3-pointer with 15 seconds left in the game. Not only had Kelly missed all four of her 3-point attempts in the game, but she attempted the shot with nine seconds remaining on the shot clock. UCF could have potentially run the clock down to six seconds, leaving Tulane less time to score.

Kelly's miss was tapped around twice and eventually went to Tulane point guard Roshaunda Barnes, who fed it ahead to Brown for the winning layup.

``We wanted to go inside-out. Ashia was shooting the ball with confidence and she's been hitting those shots here lately. That's not a shot that we were unhappy with, but we just needed to go get on the offensive boards,'' Williams said. ``We talked about when the shot goes up to crash the boards.

``We didn't come up with the rebound at the end and it hurt us,'' Williams continued. ``That wasn't the only play, but when it comes down to it, you've got to get rebounds. Rebounds win championships.''

UCF showed plenty of championship fight in the second half after falling behind by 11 points with 15:19 to play. UCF had led by as many as 11 points in the first half, but appeared in a freefall late in the first half and early in the second period.

But a gutsy 21-10 spurt by UCF got the game tied at 59, and Cannon converted a tough three-point play with 2:06 left to put the Knights up 62-59. ``Coach told us to stop being so passive and attack more. When we started getting back aggressive, that's when we made our run,'' Wiley said. ``That's when we were able to get back in the game.''

But the dreams of a back-to-back championship run died down the stretch. Now, all UCF has are the memories of a glorious two-season run and the promise of next season.

``We just told them to think about how they felt after their freshman year and then last year winning it with all the sophomores,'' Williams said. ``Now, as juniors having a disappointing season and overall not the season we set out to have, now they will be seniors and there's a sense of urgency that we need to have next season.

``I hope the way they feel right now, when they go train in the offseason and they will remember this,'' she continued. ``When we're sitting here next year we want to be sitting here on the last day and we're the team representing Conference USA in the NCAA tournament.''

John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFathletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at jdenton@athletics.ucf.edu.