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Refocused UCF ready for challenge

“We trust in our coaches, and we trust the process,” UCF junior guard Aisha Patrick says of the No. 13 seed Knights.

Associated Press

“We trust in our coaches, and we trust the process,” UCF junior guard Aisha Patrick says of the No. 13 seed Knights.

The Knights and Buckeyes don't care if no one believes they will stay in the NCAA Tournament for long.

No. 13 seed UCF (22-10) and No. 4 seed Ohio State (22-9) share confidence that comes from overcoming obstacles and fighting for postseason opportunities.

"We trust in our coaches, and we trust the process," UCF junior guard Aisha Patrick said.

The Knights and Buckeyes face off in the first round of the Women's NCAA Tournament today in Columbus, Ohio.

UCF is on an 11-game winning streak and won the Conference USA tournament. Ohio State is on a nine-game winning streak and won the Big Ten tournament.

Knights coach Joi Williams, a former USF player, called a team meeting after the Knights lost 65-58 at East Carolina on Jan. 30, with their record 11-10.

"It got our attention," senior guard D'Nay Daniels said of the meeting. "We knew we had to win February. We pulled together, we focused, we trusted the coaches, and we kept winning games."

The wins didn't always come easy, with the Knights adjusting to losing starting senior point guard Angelica Mealing to a season-ending knee injury.

"We dedicated our season to her and fight harder than we ever would have before," Daniels said. "She inspires us every day."

Williams said the leadership of forward Chelsie Wiley, guard Jelisa Caldwell, forward Leah Paige, Daniels and Mealing helped her team rally to earn an NCAA Tournament bid.

"The seniors really believe in everything that we've talked about — the process that it takes to win," Williams said. "They've bought in and, as a result, the younger kids have really bought into that, too. They played with a big sense of urgency down the stretch."

Meanwhile, Ohio State was 3-5 during a key stretch in January but rallied behind senior leaders, including center Jantel Lavender and guard Brittany Johnson.

"I like being the underdog," Lavender said. "I like the fact that we're in place where we can have some upsets. … I'm just ready to shut some people up and just play hard."

Obama's call: President Barack Obama is staying with defending champion Connecticut to win it all. Obama, filling out a bracket for ESPN, picked the Huskies to beat Baylor for the title. He correctly chose UConn to beat Stanford last season.

WNIT: Florida rolls on

GAINESVILLE — Jordan Jones scored a game-high 18 and Florida held UMBC to four field goals in the second half for a 59-47 win in the first round of the Women's NIT on Friday.

Florida (19-14) used a 20-3 run early in the second half to turn an eight-point deficit into a 51-42 lead with 11:43 left and never trailed again against the Retrievers (20-12).

The Gators play Florida Gulf Coast (28-3) at 7 p.m. Monday in Fort Myers in the second round.

"Obviously we are very pleased to be able to win and play another day," coach Amanda Butler said.

Men's NIT

Colorado 89, Cal 72: Alec Burks scored 25 and Cory Higgins had 22 for the host Buffaloes (23-13), who set a school record for wins and advanced past the second round for the first time since reaching the semifinals in 1991. They play the winner of Sunday's Fairfield-Kent State matchup Tuesday in Boulder.

Information from Times wires was used in this report.

Refocused UCF ready for challenge 03/18/11 [Last modified: Saturday, March 19, 2011 12:14am]
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