Gregory, UCF shock No. 22 Bulls
Ten months after former USF scoring dynamo Courtney Williams was taken with the No. 8 overall pick in the WNBA Draft, Bulls fans got a pseudo-sighting of her Tuesday night.
Courtesy of UCF junior Aliyah Gregory.
In a performance reminiscent of Williams, the Strawberry Crest High alumnus scored a career-high 34 points in the Knights' 66-62 upset before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 1,884.
It was UCF's first win ever against a ranked team and first against USF since Dec. 10, 1980, snapping the Bulls' 19-game winning streak in the series.
Gregory, who said she was recruited by USF (20-5, 9-3 American) but never offered a scholarship, hit a free throw with 13.3 seconds to play to provide the final margin. Before that, she scorched the No. 22 Bulls with steady dribble penetration and a sequence of mid-range jumpers.
"I have to prove myself to a lot of teams because a lot of people didn't recruit me because they didn't think I could score at an elite level in college and things like that," said Gregory, who estimates she had more than two-dozen friends and relatives in attendance.
"So every night I come out here and prove myself no matter who we're playing, but it's a little more personal with USF 'cause it's my hometown."
The Knights' top scorer (16.0 ppg) coming in, Gregory scored 14 consecutive points in one stretch between the first and second quarters, and had 20 at halftime, when UCF led 37-38. Doing a bulk of her damage from mid-range and in, she finished 15-of-26 from the floor, missing her only 3-point attempt.
"We turned her down, we helped with the post, we doubled her, we went zone," Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said. "It's a credit, she had a really, really good night. They're not in that position if it wasn't for her individual performance today."
Trailing 56-44 entering the final period, USF opened the quarter on a 12-2 run, holding the Knights scoreless the first 4:55. UCF (16-9, 6-6) regrouped and took a 65-60 lead on Gregory's traditional three-point play with 1:58 remaining. From there, USF went 1-of-4 from the floor, turning the ball over on its final possession.
Moments later, the Knights were celebrating at midcourt as USF's players gathered beneath one basket for the traditional playing of the alma mater.
"We talked to our kids about we're in the top 25, we're an NCAA Tournament team, the history of the series, and how important this game is to UCF," Fernandez said. "It showed; you saw how they celebrated after the game. Hand it to them."