Knights Fall at Home to No. 24 West Virginia

by Ericka Brockish

ORLANDO – The UCF women’s basketball team fell to No. 24 West Virginia, 76-59, Saturday afternoon in Addition Financial Arena. The Knights (9-6, 0-5 Big 12) dropped their fifth straight game, still looking for their first-ever Big 12 conference victory. 

“I’m holding each player accountable, do your job, do what you’re supposed to do, and the rest will come,” said UCF head coach Sytia Messer. “We have a talented group of young ladies, we just have to get back to work.”

The Knights kept the game close with the Mountaineers (14-2, 3-2 Big 12) in the first half only down six points. However, the Mountaineers showed everyone why they are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll and came out hot in the second half. West Virginia outscored UCF 23-9 to put enough distance between them and the Knights, despite a late push by UCF in the late minutes.

Kaitlin Peterson and Morgan Robinson-Nwagwu led the Knights with 18 points apiece, a career high for Robinson-Nwagwu. Freshman center Khayla Ngodu made her first career start for UCF and was just one point shy from her first career double-double. Ngodu had a career high 12 rebounds, five offensive and seven defensive, and scored nine points. 

Peterson played 38 minutes after playing a full 40 in Cincinnati on Wednesday showing her toughness and versatility for the Knights. 

“I have coached a lot of pros and KP’s competitiveness is as well as I have coached, she competes, she doesn’t like excuses, she plays hard,” said Messer when talking about Peterson.

The Knights kept the game close in the first half trailing only by five after the first quarter thanks to a buzzer-beater bucket by Mya Burns. UCF was able to get West Virginia’s best player, Ja’Naiya Quinerly in foul trouble early in the second quarter, hitting the bench for the rest of the half. 

In the last half of the second quarter, West Virginia tightened up their defense and forced six straight turnovers. The Knights were tough defensively as well, forcing 11 first-half turnovers. In the second half, the Mountaineers came out hot and were very successful with the pick and roll on the floor helping them score 23 third-quarter points. 

The second half got away from UCF quickly going into the fourth quarter down 58-38. The Knights put together a late push in the fourth quarter with Robinson-Nwagwu scoring six of her 18 points in the last three minutes of the game. 

The Knights have a few days off before they continue their search for the first Big 12 conference win on Saturday, Jan. 17 versus No. 4 Baylor at 3 p.m. in Waco, Texas.