On Sunday March 8th, the UCF women’s basketball team won the 2008-2009 Conference USA Tournament in New Orleans. The Lady Knights beat the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 65-54 in overtime. With this win, they have an automatic bid towards the NCAA Tournament. Point guard Chelsie Wiley had a game high with 18 points. Forward Emma Cannon had 16 points with 15 rebounds. Cannon’s 15 rebounds were enough to break the Conference USA’s all time rebounding record with 58 rebounds for the entire tournament. She beat out Sandra Irwin of TCU (Texas Christian University) with 47 rebounds that set in 2003.
UCF came to this tournament in the middle of the pack as being the 5th seed. With that they had to beat Rice, Houston, and SMU in four days to get to the final. With that win, the Lady Knights are 17-16. This is the first time this season that they over .500. Furthermore, during the last 20 games of the season, they were an outstanding 15-5. Their head coach Joi Williams has done an outstanding job with the team. She had turned the lady Knights program around from a dreadful 10-20 overall and a dismal 3-13 in the league last year. One year later, with a conference championship in her hand, Williams was named Conference USA’s women’s coach of the year.
The following day, the team was celebrated in a hero’s welcome outside of the UCF Arena. Hundreds of fans came out chanting and banners flying high. This must be an exhilarating moment for these women with a young team filled with freshman and sophomores who will have greater expectations for years to come. Next up of the Lady Knights will be this Saturday afternoon at noon on ESPN 2 when they will play the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament. I know that the North Carolina has a history of having great players and have won a national championship in the past, but these girls are feisty and tough and they’ll not willing to give up without a good fight. Good luck to these brave ladies and congratulations on a job well done winning the 2008-2009 Conference USA Tournament.