Women’s Basketball Falls to Seton Hall 63-56

ORLANDO – Despite a historic display by senior forward Destiny Thomas, the UCF Knights fell just short of their comeback bid Sunday afternoon, dropping their second straight game and their first at home, 63-56, to the Seton Hall Pirates at Addition Financial Arena Sunday afternoon.
Thomas was a force to be reckoned with on the glass throughout the contest, grabbing down a career-high and program record-tying 24 rebounds that aided the Knights in almost erasing a Pirates lead that grew at one point to 15 points in the third quarter.
"Twenty-four rebounds? I've been in this thing for 22 years and I haven't seen the way she goes to the boards and how she is consistent for us when it comes to rebounding," said head coach Sytia Messer. "I'm so proud of her for doing that, and we have to count on her."
Trailing 51-38 entering the fourth quarter, the Knights gained their first bit of offensive traction against the Pirates since their 18-point first quarter. Thomas paced the team with three of its seven quarter-opening points and Laila Jewett added two more to bookend UCF's 9-2 run.
Mya Burns drained her second 3-point field goal of the afternoon on the heels of three Seton Hall free throws to bring the Knights again within six points at 56-50, and a Burns layup minutes later kept the Knights within striking distance, but UCF was unable to close the gap completely despite winning the fourth quarter 18-12.
"I think Mya brings something unique for our team," Messer added. "She's a six-foot guard, and she's long, lanky. Where I see her eventually is being a good defensive stopper, a player who can pull up from the mid-range, shoot the jumper, layups and three. I can slowly see that coming along, and I'm proud."
The two squads went back-and-forth throughout a high-scoring but close first quarter that saw ties at three, eight, 15 and 17 points before Seton Hall pulled away at the break. Bryana Hardy scored four of the Knights' first five points, and a pair of Burns free throws and her first triple of the day gave UCF its first lead of the game at 11-10.
Burns paced the Knights with eight points in the first quarter and would finish with 15, marking her third game in her last four with double-digit points after failing to reach the benchmark in each of her first four games this season.
The affairs got away from UCF a bit in a second quarter that saw the Pirates outscore the Knights 15-8 and give UCF a 36-26 halftime deficit, but the Knights again began chipping away in the third quarter.
Jewett made her first 3-point try of the game to open the period and Thomas scored five points on 2-of-3 shooting during the quarter, but the Knights were unable to stifle Seton Hall on the defensive end and found themselves behind by 13 entering the final frame.
"I think a lot of it is what we did," Messer continued. "When you think about the first half, the free throws that we missed, the empty layups. To me, if you knock down those shots and you make those free throws, then the momentum is different. There's things we can improve upon, and then the game [would be] a different pace."
Thomas scored a team-leading 16 points to record her fifth double-double in eight games this season, and Kiera Brown notched a season-high eight points after combining for four through her first three games this season.
"Every night I just go out and do my job," Thomas said. "And today I ended up getting 24 [rebounds], and that's cool. I had no idea I had 24, it didn't feel like it. I was just doing my job, and it ended up being that."
The Knights will look to break their two-game losing skid Wednesday evening on the road at Tennessee, with tipoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m.