UCF women’s basketball entered the Sun Dome on Tuesday night without ever having won there before.
Even away from the Sun Dome, the last time the Knights had beaten the Bulls was over 35 years ago — on Dec. 10, 1980.
But despite history, UCF capped off its 66-62 upset over No. 22 USF with a joyous group celebration at half court after the final buzzer.
At the center of it all was UCF guard Aliyah Gregory, whose 34 points on 15-of-26 shooting was too much for USF’s defense to contain.
The Bulls tried anything and everything against the junior guard, but it wasn’t enough.
“She had a great night, I thought she was in rhythm,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “That first half, she was very assertive. We just started in straight man and she hit a couple of those mid-range jumpers and then we went no catch and she made some really, really tough shots.
“We turned her down, we helped with the post, we doubled her, we went zone. They’re not in that position if it isn’t for her individual performance today. She was good.”
The Bulls brought themselves back within two with just over two minutes left after trailing by 12 to begin the fourth quarter, but Gregory added four more points down the final stretch to keep USF at bay.
“Credit to them, they played a really good game and they deserved to win,” forward Maria Jespersen said. “Tonight, we didn’t play our best.”
USF struggled on offense all night long, as forward Tamara Henshaw was the only Bull to make at least half of her shots. The freshman scored 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting even after spraining her right ankle in the second quarter.
Jespersen said the slow offense was likely due, at least in part, to the drain of attempting to stop Gregory’s onslaught of points.
“We had some problems running our plays on the offensive end,” Jespersen said. “The ball didn’t move, we didn’t move enough. I think it’s hard when you get scored on a lot, I think it takes some of your energy away. Especially because you had a hand up on the shot and you get scored on, it’s hard mentally and I think it carried over to our offense, which it shouldn’t.”
The Bulls will have a chance to bounce back when they host Temple at the Sun Dome at 1 p.m. Sunday.