ORLANDO, Fla. — A showdown between two of the best defensive teams in the American Athletic Conference went the way of UCF Wednesday as the Knights held on for a 52-47 victory over East Carolina inside Addition Financial Arena.
UCF (9-2, 7-1 AAC) won its fourth-straight game and stayed just one game back of league leader USF in the loss column. The Pirates (5-9, 3-6 AAC) dropped their sixth consecutive decision, but never trailed by more than six the entire evening.
Maddie Moore exploded for a career-high 18 points to go along with eight rebounds – just missing her second double-double of the campaign. Lashonda Monk chipped in with eight points while Dominique Claytor led the squad with three assists. Courtajia Sanders notched a double-double for the Knights to the tune of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Both teams shot the ball at a low rate as East Carolina hit just 14 of 57 from the floor to finish at 25 percent. Conversely, UCF converted just 17 of 48 tries to fire at a 35-percent clip. The squads also combined for just seven three-point field goals. The Knights enjoyed a slim advantage on the glass, securing 40 rebounds to the Pirates’ 38.
ECU got off to a slow start, falling behind 8-2 just four minutes into the contest. The Pirates began to chip away, however, scoring four unanswered points from the free throw line to slice the deficit to a pair at the 1:44 mark. UCF ended the quarter on a 6-3 run to pull ahead by five at 14-9.
East Carolina netted the first six points of the second stanza off a Moore jumper and a triple and free throw by Monk to take its first lead of day at 15-14 with 8:13 left before the break. The Knights scored a quick four points to seize control back before Taniyah Thompson drained a three to knot things at 18. Brittney Smith gave UCF a 24-20 edge with a jumper as the clock ticked under a minute, but Ryann Evans had the last word of the half as she converted two free throw attempts to draw the Pirates within two.
Synia Johnson paced ECU with five points in the first two periods while Masseny Kaba tallied eight for the home side. The teams combined for 14 turnovers, eight by the Knights, but UCF ended up with a 22-18 advantage in the rebounding column.
East Carolina suffered through a cold spell in the third quarter, not scoring a point until the 5:36 mark when Claytor grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back to keep the Pirates within three at 27-24. ECU kept battling and eventually reduced the Knights’ lead to 31-30 with under a minute to go following a Moore jumper, but Ahna Burney hit a three with 13 seconds left to give UCF a four-point cushion heading to the final stanza.
The Knights scored the first bucket of the fourth to push ahead by six. However, Moore sparked a big 9-0 East Carolina run with four-straight points and capped it with a three-point field goal to propel the Pirates in front 39-36 with 5:34 on the clock. The lead switched sides a couple times down the stretch as the contest eventually settled at a 41-41 deadlock with just over four minutes remaining. ECU could not complete the upset though, and UCF scored five of the next six points to grab the upper hand for good. The Pirates were as close as 46-45 with 1:41 to go before the Knights were able to salt the game away at the free throw line.
East Carolina hosts Tulsa Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the second leg of a men’s-women’s basketball doubleheader inside Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum.