ORLANDO, Fla. – Central Florida opened with a 14-3 run to start Sunday's finale at the UCF Thanksgiving Classic and earned a 68-43 home-court victory over SIUE.
UCF ran its record to 6-1 with four players scoring in double figures. Zykira Lewis paced the Knights off the bench with a game-high 16 points. Starters Briahanna Jackson, Sara Djassi, and Stephanie Taylor also scored in double figures for Central Florida.
SIUE women's basketball Head Coach Paula Buscher said the Cougars just dug themselves too big of a hole in the first half with a 29-16 deficit at halftime.
"I thought offensively we struggled a lot in the first half," said Buscher. "In the second half, we played them pretty even. I know the numbers don't show it, but we worked hard together as a team."
Tierny Austin missed a double-double for the second straight day. This time, the junior guard finished with a team-high 15 points and nine rebounds.
Valerie Finnin recorded a season-best 10 points in her second start of the season. SIUE shot 29.1 percent from the field and made 1 of 10 shots from three-point range.
After its initial run to start the game, UCF continued to put pressure on the Cougars with another 12-2 run towards the end of the first half. The Knights would pick up six made free throws during the run and finished the game 20 of 23 from the charity stripe.
SIUE was outscored 29-27 in the second half, but Buscher said the Cougars played well.
"I'm proud of what we did in the second half," Buscher said.
The Cougars continued to control the scoring in the paint. After a 16-4 edge in scoring in the paint, during the second half, SIUE would finish with a 28-18 edge in that category.
SIUE also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds, including four each from Austin and Allyssa Decker, and turned them into 11 second-chance points. "I thought we did a nice job on the boards," added Buscher.
The Cougars, 1-6, hope to get back on the winning track as they continue this month-long road swing with a second straight tournament. The Cougars play Wyoming and Air Force at the Air Force Classic in Colorado Springs, Colo. next Friday and Saturday.