Women's Hoops Earns First Big 12 Win

by Maddie Glass

ORLANDO - Led by all five starters scoring in double digits for the first time this season, the UCF women’s basketball team captured its first Big 12 Conference win of the season Saturday afternoon defeating Houston in a thrilling overtime victory, 92-87, inside Addition Financial Arena. 

Khyala Ngodu scored a career-high 25 points with 12 rebounds, earning her first double-double. Kaitlin Peterson, the Big 12’s leading scorer, added 27 points in the win.

“Wow, it feels good, We had a lot of weight on us to get that first win and I just kept telling our players it's coming. I’m proud of everyone on this team."

Sytia MesserUCF Women's Basketball Head Coach

Back on their homecourt, the Knights (10-8, 1-7 Big 12) came out with high energy in the first quarter forcing Houston (11-9, 2-7) into an 0-5 start from the field. The Knights took advantage of Houston’s physical defense by making their presence known in the paint and drawing 14 free throw attempts in the first quarter. The Cougars were able to create separation in part from 17 bench points and three steals, ending the quarter leading, 25-17. Laila Jewett paced the Knights with five points. 

It was a display of offensive explosion by UCF in the second quarter. Making eight of their first nine shots from the field, the Knights ended the quarter scoring 27 points on 62.5 percent shooting. 

With the score at 41-39, a pair of missed free throws by the Cougars resulted in a fastbreak layup from Morgan Robinson-Nwagwu, tying the game at 43-43. Robinson-Nwagwu scored six points in the second while adding three assists and three rebounds. Mya Burns grabbed an offensive rebound and drew a foul, getting to the line where she split a pair of free throws to give the Knights their first lead of the second quarter, 44-43. With the crowd chanting defense, Taylor Gibson had a stop and steal on Houston’s final possession of the half, ensuring a Knights' one-point advantage at the break.

The third quarter was a one-possession game nearly the whole way, as neither team was able to gain separation. The Knights forced seven turnovers and continued to get to the line, attempting eight more free throws. The teams continued to battle, taking turns going out in front. With a minute left in the frame, the Knights put themselves ahead by four points, but Houston immediately answered with a three-point make. A pair of missed free throws by the Cougars left the Knights holding onto their one-point lead, 60-59. 

Midway through the fourth quarter, UCF held the Cougars offense down, only allowing two points. After Peterson knocked down her first three of the day, Ngodu followed with another basket to create some breathing room and build the lead to six. Houston kept answering, making their eighth triple of the game to cut into the lead once again. 

At the 2:30-minute mark in the fourth quarter, UCF was up by one, 74-73. Following a Knights turnover, the Cougars knocked down a jumper to take a four-point lead, 78-74. Burns answered with a layup and the Black and Gold were within a basket. On the other end of the court, Robinson-Nwagwu stepped in taking the charge to give UCF the ball. Back-to-back empty possessions by both teams gave the Knights the stop they needed with 11 seconds remaining. Ngodu, the freshman center, tied the game at 78-78. The Cougars were unable to get a shot off in the final possession, sending it to overtime. 

Houston scored the first points of the overtime period but UCF answered with a 7-0 run to take a five-point advantage, 85-80. The teams went back-and-forth and Houston regained the lead, 87-86. A personal 4-0 run by Peterson put the Knights in front by three with 36.8 seconds remaining. UCF forced one final stop and Peterson came through once again, putting the game out of reach for Houston and giving the Knights their first Big 12 Conference win, 92-87. 

UCF will be back in action on Tuesday, Jan. 30, as they travel to Morgantown, West Virginia, to take on No. 24 West Virginia. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside WVU Colisum.