Knights take first game of Thanksgiving Classic

Courtesy UCF Athletics Communications

Last season, the UCF women’s basketball team didn’t get its fifth win until Jan. 30. Thanks to a great defensive effort, they notched their fifth win of this year in their sixth game, as the Knights took down Rider 49-30 in their first game of the UCF Thanksgiving Classic.

UCF’s defense was effective throughout the game, holding Rider to 21 percent shooting and forcing 28 turnovers. The Knights (5-1) also held the Broncs (3-1) to less than 10 points in each quarter.

“I was really excited about our press today,” head coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We really got after it and it was a lot of fun to watch.”

The Knights used the same starting lineup two games in a row for the first time this season, starting guard Aliyah Gregory and forward Joslyn Massey over guard Zykira Lewis and forward Fifi Ndour.

“These five that have started the game have really shown that they’ve bought into defense and so I think that’s really, really important,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “Having Fifi and Zy coming off the bench, you know, has really been a great spark for us.”

UCF came out cold in the first quarter, starting the game 0-for-eight from the field.

The Knights’ scoring finally picked up with a few minutes to go before halftime, thanks to several steals being turned into quick layups. At the half, UCF held an 11-point lead, holding Rider to 29 percent shooting.

UCF’s defense had a huge impact coming out of halftime. The Knights constantly pestered the Broncs, forcing 12 turnovers in the third quarter and holding them to one made field goal.

“We just really got after them. I think we wore them out a little bit, especially their two guards,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “We really try to wear out the ball handler and make them pass it up and wear other people out because usually they want to throw it back to the ball handler.”

The Knights were also much more effective on offense in the third quarter, scoring 20 points as they built up a 24-point lead going into the fourth.

Massey had a big impact on both ends of the floor, finishing with 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

“She’s really bought into the defense, especially in the half court, you know, and I think that she really gets after them,” Abrahamson-Henderson said. “Her leadership out there is really important for us.”

The Knights will play their final game of the Thanksgiving Classic tomorrow at 2:30 when they take on Austin Peay.