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Women's Basketball off to Best Start in Program History with 72-45 win over New Orleans

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – In just her second year at the helm, head coach Sytia Messer is re-writing the UCF women’s basketball team’s record books seemingly by the day.

Behind a relentless attack from beyond the arc, the Knights set a new program record with their eighth consecutive win to begin the 2023-24 campaign, toppling the visiting New Orleans Privateers by a 72-45 final score at Addition Financial Arena Monday afternoon.

UCF (8-0) flirted with history throughout the game as well, drilling 12 three-point field goals in 29 tries (41 percent) to finish one shy of tying the program’s single-game record of 13, most recently accomplished in the team's season-opening win over Bethune-Cookman Nov. 6, as well as twice in the 1997-98 campaign.

“Great start to the season, having an 8-0 record,” Messer said. “It’s a testament to where our goals are and how we’re going as a program heading into the Big 12. Our ladies are buying into our vision here and it’s showing on the court.”

After battling with the Privateers (1-8) throughout a slim first half that ended with the Knights clinging to a four-point advantage, UCF caught fire from deep coming out of the halftime break.

Senior center Jayla Kelly converted a try from the free throw line to push the Knights’ lead to 34-29, and after a pair of Privateer free throws, the Knights rattled off a remarkable 24-2 run spanning 5:47 of gametime on the strength of six 3-point field goals by the junior guard tandem of Laila Jewett and Kaitlin Peterson.

Jewett, who concluded her showing with a season-high 21 points on 7-of-11 shooting, converted four 3-point field goals in the run, and finished with a career-high seven triples in 10 tries from beyond the arc. The display surpassed her previous career-best of six 3-pointers in her 34-point outing against Samford Nov. 26, 2022.

She also came one triple shy of tying the individual program single-game record of eight 3-point field goals, last achieved by Zykira Lewis against Florida Atlantic Nov. 14, 2014.

“I should have made eight,” Jewett said with a smile. “My teammates were getting me the ball, so I just kept taking it. I wish I could have made eight or nine, but seven’s cool too.”

Peterson, the team’s leading scorer through eight games with an average of 19.6 points per game, accounted for four more 3-point field goals in the afternoon tilt, including two during the Knights’ third-quarter run.

“We really picked it up in the second half. I just kept believing in my teammates and I’m going to keep giving them the ball,” Jewett added. “I keep believing they’re going to make every shot, so I’m not surprised that we were able to do that today.”

UCF rode its third-quarter momentum into a fourth quarter that saw the Knights outscore the Privateers 14-7, led by six points from graduate student guard Asia Todd, accompanied by field goals from Achol Akot, Khyala Ngodu, Timia Ware and Taylor Gibson.

The dominant half saw UCF top New Orleans by a 39-16 margin after it brought a 33-29 advantage into the halftime locker room, built upon a halftime tweak to the team’s offensive scheme.

“Our coaches made an adjustment to our offense, and we were able to get that extra pass in the corner,” Jewett continued. “That’s where a lot of the other threes came from from my teammates as well.”

A slow offensive start saw the Knights trail after the first quarter, 13-9, but Jewett’s second triple of the contest ignited UCF’s offense to begin the second frame. Peterson added two more makes from beyond the arc amid a 14-4 UCF run, and graduate student Mya Burns also connected from deep.

As a complement to Jewett’s 21 points, Peterson finished with 18 to put the finishing touches on her seventh game in her first eight as a Knight that saw her finish in double figures.

Defensively, the Knights held the Privateers to just 26.7 percent shooting from the field (16-of-60), besting their Nov. 23 showing against Jackson State (28.3 percent) for their lowest field goal percentage-allowed thus far.

“We’ve had some hard practices and put in some hard work to get here,” Jewett said of the team’s 8-0 start. “This is the result of us all buying in. We have some momentum going into Big 12 play and we’re on the way up, for sure.”


UCF will look to win its ninth consecutive game to begin the season Dec. 18, when the Knights welcome the Florida Atlantic Owls to Orlando. Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. from Addition Financial Arena, and the game will be streamed on ESPN+.


Follow UCF women’s basketball on X (@UCF_WBB), Instagram (@UCF.WBB) and Facebook (/UCFWomensBasketball).


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