Knights Turn Away Tulsa, Advance to Quarterfinals

FORT WORTH, Texas - The 10th-seeded UCF women's basketball team took over in the second half, taking down No. 7 seed Tulsa 69-53 to advance to the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Laila Jewett scored 20 points to lead the Knights, while Destiny Thomas collected her 13th double-double of the season with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Sierra Godbolt contributed a career-high 10 assists and Mya Burns added 19 points.  

"First of all, I'm proud of our team," said head coach Sytia Messer. "This is the third time we've played Tulsa, and we feel like in the first two games that we outplayed them for 37 minutes, and the last three minutes we didn't finish the deal. We're so excited that our team was able to do that today."

It was a slow start offensively for both teams in the first five minutes of the game. Jewett was the spark the Knights needed in the first quarter, as she came off the bench and made two three-pointers to help the Knights stay close to the Golden Hurricane after a scoring drought. Tulsa went on a 4-0 run in the final minute before Rachel Ranke connected on a long-range shot to end the quarter with UCF trailing 13-12. 

Tulsa started the second quarter in an offensive groove, turning a one-point lead into an eight-point lead within a few minutes. Following another Jewett three-pointer, the Knights found themselves on a 10-2 run and Thomas gave UCF its first lead of the game at 24-22. By forcing Tulsa into four turnovers and limiting their own, the Black and Gold went into halftime leading 30-29. 

The Knights came out of the break locked in on offense and defense. Thanks to 12 third-quarter points from Burns and six more from Jewett, UCF outscored Tulsa 24-14 in the third quarter to take control of the game. The Knights limited Tulsa'a all-conference selection Temiera Poindexter to just two points after she scored 14 in the first half. Thomas showed her defensive versatility, collecting four rebounds and two steals in the quarter. 

The Knights' defense was suffocating to begin the fourth quarter. Forcing the Golden Hurricane into tough shots, UCF limited them to just 22.2 percent shooting in the final period. Meanwhile, Tulsa struggled to contain the Knights' dominant offensive display. Increasing the lead to as much as 22, Burns continued to find her rhythm, scoring seven more points in the period.

It was a team-wide contribution to advance the Knights to the second round, as four players scored in double figures and UCF received 34 bench points. 

The Knights will play No. 2 Memphis in the quarterfinals on Tuesday, March 7, with tip-off slated for 7 p.m.