John Denton's Knights Insider: UCF Falls to Middle Tennessee State


Dec. 7, 2010

Final Stats

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By John Denton

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFathletics.com) - In UCF's first half against Middle Tennessee State on Tuesday, the Knights shot the ball well and defended even better, but struggled with turnover issues. In the second half, they solved their ball-handling problems, but let extended offensive and defensive lulls spoil an otherwise solid effort.

With the most veteran team she's had in four seasons at UCF, head coach Joi Williams thought her Knights were beyond the maddening inconsistencies that have haunted the squad in the past. But Tuesday's frustrating 77-73 loss to Middle Tennessee State at UCF Arena showed that the Knights still have work to do to become a more steady basketball team.

``It's very disappointing having five seniors and three juniors and making some of the same mistakes that we've made when we were a younger team,'' Williams said. ``We just have to keep working and try to get those things fixed.''

Consistency has clearly been a problem again for UCF (4-4), which has won consecutive games just once all season. The Knights were especially impressive in big wins against Richmond and FIU, but close losses to James Madison and Savannah State have been baffling to Williams. MTSU (6-2) is a traditional power, but that didn't soften the blow of losing a game that was tied at 56-all with eight minutes to play.

With a .500 record heading into next week's game against Florida State, Williams said the Knights need to become better decision-makers with a better focus on defense before Conference USA play starts in early January.

``I didn't anticipate being 4-4 at this point. We're definitely not satisfied,'' Williams said. ``We've underachieved in my mind at this point. I think our locker room feels the same way. It just comes down to our decision-making and we have to do a better job when we get in these situations. Everybody we have played we've competed with, but those little lulls we got through just hurt us.''

Senior shooting guard Chelsie Wiley led the Knights with 17 points, while junior guard Aisha Patrick contributed 15 points, seven rebounds, three steals and three assists. Angelica Mealing added 11 points and four assists, while D'Nay Daniels contributed 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds. It was the first time since the season-opening loss to Florida that the Knights had four players score in double figures.

UCF tied the game at 54-all with 8:28 to play on a fastbreak layup by Mealing that was set up by Daniels' drive-and-kick pass. But it would be the Knights' last field goal for 7 minutes, 9 seconds, a stretch that included 10 consecutive misses. And too many defensive lapses inside put the Knights down as much as 10 points down the stretch.

``We were getting stops early in the game, but in the second half it didn't click that well for us,'' said Wiley, UCF's leading scorer this season at 15.9 points per game. ``We basically have to grow up and mature and just buy into what the coaches have to say. ... We're competing with a lot of people this year, but we have to take our 4-4 record, move on and learn our lesson from it. We have to do better.''

UCF never quit down the stretch and made it interesting by getting 3-pointers from Jelisa Caldwell (eight points, three rebounds), Ashia Kelly (five points, two steals) and Wiley. But trailing 73-70, the Knights caught a bad break when they were whistled for a questionable foul with 17.5 seconds remaining, allowing the Blue Raiders to seal the victory at the free throw line.

``The bottom line is that we didn't get stops in the second half that we needed,'' Williams said. ``Offensively some shots didn't fall, but we predicate everything on defense. The first half we were aggressive and the second half we weren't.''

UCF took its first lead of the game 12 minutes into the first half and had its biggest lead of the afternoon (39-34) at the break. The Knights made 56.5 percent of their shots in the first half, but they dipped to just 24.2 percent after the break. But what bothered Williams most were the defensive breakdowns and the 52 points allowed in the paint.

``The games that we have won you can look at our defensive stats and our effort and that's where it all starts,'' the coach said. ``They're very aware of it and as a coaching staff we keep preaching (defense). We did a pretty good job only giving up two 3-pointers, but they killed us in the paint with post defense. We gave up 52 points in the paint and we have to fix that quick because we have a huge Florida State team up next.''


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