UCF spoils MU Senior Day with 75-51 victory
HUNTINGTON -- Senior Day didn't go the way Marshall women's basketball coach Matt Daniel wanted.
UCF used a strong second-half run to pull away to a 75-51 victory over the Thundering Herd in Conference USA play Sunday at Cam Henderson Center, spoiling the day for departing seniors Leandra King and Veronica Ruiz.
"It was a tale of two halves. Obviously you've got to play more than one half," Daniel said. "I'm happy for LeLe (King) and 'V' (Ruiz) to get to play more than half the game on the final game. One of the things I talked to them about earlier in the week is you will remember your approach and effort in your last game -- you can't help it, you just do. I think they got a good opportunity and they had pretty good days."
King and Ruiz were recognized prior to tip-off and both saw extensive action. King logged 29 minutes and recorded her first double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 rebounds to go with a team-high three blocks.
"Personally a double-double is great," King said. "I was pretty hyped. It was an exciting day. I felt I had something to prove."
UCF (13-16, 7-8 C-USA) held a 43-38 lead with 13:39 to play. From that point, it was all Knights as they capitalized on Marshall turnovers and poor shooting.
"I felt we could still come back," King said. "I didn't think it would wind up that way."
UCF led 32-30 at the break. The Knights hit their stride five minutes into the second half when Briahanna Jackson hit a 3-pointer that started a 26-5 run that lasted eight minutes. The visitors played relentless defense with 10 steals off Marshall's 12 turnovers in the final 20 minutes.
One of those steals marked Jackson's record-breaking moment. The freshman picked up an errant Herd pass at 14:11 and dribbled the length of the court before dishing a behind-the-back pass to Gevenia Carter for a layup. Jackson erased the 15-year-old conference freshman single-season steals record with her three to bring her total to 94.
UCF finished with 16 steals. Marshall (9-19, 3-11 C-USA) had 21 turnovers, giving the Knights a 26-9 advantage in points off turnovers.
"It's about handling adversity," Daniel said. "It's been a tough deal, but we are fighting like crazy to get better."
Jackson led the Knights with 19 points and Carter added 15.
Ruiz spent five seasons with the Herd after being redshirted after her freshman season.
"I survived a lot of adversity, or whatever you want to call it," Ruiz said. "Marshall treated me great."
The Herd will close out the regular season Thursday at Memphis.
Daniel said King and Ruiz will remember Sunday despite the outcome.
"You'll remember your last game, your approach, your effort," Daniel said. "They played hard today. Unfortunately they were on the wrong side. All the changes. Quite a few adjustments. Some good, more bad than good. I hope they approved ... they might not now, but will later on. I hope the good will outweight the bad for them."
Marshall's Shay Weaver needed just two three-pointers to match the single-season record (68) set by Kizzy Hart in 2010. Weaver went 0-for-8 from behind the arc, meaning her shot at the record is on hold until Thursday.
"Sometimes players worry about what they need to do too much," Daniel said. "Hopefully it's about the (team) record over performance. You chase wins, not records."
Jackson wasn't the only UCF player making history Sunday. Carter became the 16th Knight and C-USA's ninth-active player to score 1,000 career points. She needed 10 points and reached the milestone off a layup with 13:33 to go in the second half.
Marshall will enter the C-USA Tournament on March 13 at the No. 12 seed.