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Women’s Basketball Snaps Skid, Tops Idaho State 67-50

ORLANDO – The way things had been trending for the UCF women's basketball team, the Black and Gold needed a fresh start on its home floor after fighting through a challenging first three weeks of December.
 
On the heels of coming one win shy of tying the program record for consecutive wins to start a season with six straight, the Knights (7-3, 0-0 AAC) endured their fair share of struggles in suffering losses in each of their previous three games against Auburn, Seton Hall and Tennessee.
 
A fast start, physical play and a bit of home cooking Tuesday afternoon did wonders in helping UCF snap its losing streak at three, though, as the Knights overpowered the visiting Idaho State Bengals, 67-50, in the second game of the UCF Christmas Classic at Addition Financial Arena.
 
"I was proud of the way our kids started off," said head coach Sytia Messer. "I feel like our first half, when you look at it we outscored them 23-12, so to me we set the tone right there in the first quarter. I think that put Idaho State on their heels."
 
The Knights played fast and physical from the opening tipoff, turning eight Bengals fouls into 13 points on 16 tries from the free throw line in the first quarter. Through the media timeout with 4:50 to play in the first frame, Taylor Gibson, Mya Burns and Destiny Thomas had opened a 7-3 lead on the strength of a game-opening field goal and five-of-six shooting from the line.
 
Thomas, who recorded her sixth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds, added a layup shortly after the return to action, a play that marked the continuation of UCF's game-opening 17-5 run.
 
The senior forward entered the contest averaging 13.1 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, the latter mark good for fourth-most in Division I women's basketball, and her sixth double-double of the year hoists her into the top 21 players in the country in the category among leaders entering play Tuesday.
 
"She had four steals, four assists and a double-double. Destiny is a tremendous competitor, and I think it was really good, her energy and what she brought," Messer added. "When she's in a game, she helps with the momentum and the chemistry, and so I was super proud of her."
 
Burns would notch four more to help balloon the Knights' early lead to 12 points, and five more down the stretch from Thomas and Sierra Godbolt pushed the UCF advantage to 23-12 entering the second quarter.
 
The Knights also received a shot in the arm early in the first frame, as junior forward transfer Anzhané Hutton, who announced her commitment to join UCF from the MEAC's Howard University in May, and guard Ashley Foster, a senior transfer from Georgia State, made their respective season debuts.
 
In two seasons with the Bison, Hutton averaged 10.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in 45 games and was a First Team All-MEAC selection during the 2021-22 campaign. Foster produced 7.3 points per game and a field goal rate of 38.2 percent in three seasons with the Panthers.
 
"I'm happy to get 'Nae' back, I think 'Nae' is one of the most aggressive players along with Destiny on the rebounding, and having 'Nae' to match that toughness is really good for our team," Messer continued. "Ashley brings us some quickness off on-ball screens and she's learning our schemes. We've got some really good options there."
 
Sophomore guard Laila Jewett drilled the Knights' first of two second-quarter 3-pointers to begin the second quarter, followed closely by a pair of made free throws. When Burns added two more points a little under a minute later, UCF's lead had grown to 30-12 on the strength of its 12-0 run that straddled the first two quarters. Godbolt later hit the Knights' second triple of the game to help punctuate a 14-8 UCF stretch that gave the Knights a 44-25 lead at halftime.
 
Idaho State found its offensive footing a bit coming out of the locker room, outscoring UCF 15-11 in the third quarter, but the Knights remained in command of the affairs through the final 10 minutes, winning the fourth quarter 12-10 behind seven points from Burns.
 
Burns paced the Knights with 16 points, followed closely by Godbolt's career-high 14, Jewett's 12 and Thomas' 10. UCF will now look to build upon its seventh win of the season Wednesday afternoon against Elon with a home tipoff at 12 p.m.