UCF's War On I-4 Comeback Bid Falls Short

Box Score (PDF)

TAMPA – The UCF women's basketball team rallied from a 22-point deficit, but the comeback bid fell short as the Knights dropped a 65-62 decision to No. 14/15 South Florida on Tuesday evening in the Yuengling Center.
Alisha Lewis had a career performance, finishing with a game-high 27 points on 9-16 (.563) shooting. She matched her career high with six three-pointers.
The Knights scored the first basket of the night, a three-pointer from Lewis, but the Bulls responded with an 11-0 run and led 18-5 after the first 10 minutes. UCF's offense picked up in the second quarter, but trailed 34-17 at halftime.
Despite facing a double-digit deficit, the Black and Gold never quit. UCF outscored South Florida 16-10 in the third period, and cut the deficit to single digits, 42-33, with just over 30 seconds left in the frame.
South Florida opened the fourth period with a hook shot to push its lead to 13 points, 46-33, but the Knights continued to chip away. A 7-0 run that featured baskets from Masseny Kaba and Brittney Smith, along with free throws from Diamond Battles pulled UCF within six, 46-40, with 7:08 left to play. Each time the Bulls looked to pull away, UCF responded.
The Knights defense picked up in the final minute. After the Bulls pushed their lead to 11, 63-52, with 34 seconds left, Battles drove the length of the court for a layup, which she followed with a steal. She found Lewis for the lay in to pull within seven and force a South Florida timeout. Out of the huddle, Lewis came up with a steal. She converted the three-point play, drawing the foul after making the layup to make it a four-point game, 63-59, with six seconds remaining.
Lewis came up big again just four seconds later, collecting the steal and hitting the three-pointer to pull UCF within one, 63-62, with one second remaining. After South Florida converted two free throws to go in front 65-62, Lewis drove and had a look at a three-pointer to tie, but it bounced out, leaving UCF's comeback bid just short.
Lewis was joined by Diamond Battles and Brittney Smith to give UCF a trio in double figures. Battles added 11 and Smith chipped in 10. Smith just missed a double-double, collecting nine rebounds. Battles dished out four assists and Lewis had a career-best six steals.
UCF (13-3, 11-2 The American) secured the second seed in The American Championship, which begins March 8 in Fort Worth, Texas. South Florida (15-2, 13-1* The American) clinched the regular season title with Tuesday's victory. *The American has declared a forfeit win for USF against Memphis for conference-standings purposes only as a result of the scheduled game from Jan. 17 that was not played. The teams' overall records are not affected.
UCF rounds out the regular season with a second War on I-4 matchup, hosting the Bulls at 5 p.m. in Addition Financial Arena on March 4.
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