March 8, 2009
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NEW ORLEANS - UCF's Emma Cannon scored 16 points and grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds to lead the fifth-seeded Knights past No. 3 seed Southern Miss in overtime, 65-54, Sunday afternoon in the 2009 Conference USA Women's Basketball Championship Game in Fogelman Arena.
With the score knotted at 52-all at the end of regulation, UCF scored the first points of the extra frame on an Amber Kirkpatrick jumper 25 seconds into overtime and never looked back. The Knights attempted just three shots from the floor in the final five minutes of play, but used a 9-of-12 performance from the free-throw line to account for the final score.
The victory gives UCF the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament as the Knights improve to 17-16 on the year. They become just the second team in the 14-year history of C-USA to win the tournament title without the benefit of a first-round bye. Southern Miss, meanwhile, falls to 20-12 overall and will have to wait to learn if the postseason is in its future when NCAA and WNIT selection committees announce their respective fields next Sunday.
UCF scored the first eight points of the ballgame on a pair of Chelsie Wiley three-pointers, a layup by Aisha Patrick and never trailed during the opening 20 minutes. The lead swelled to as many as nine points in the first half when Cannon dropped a basket off the glass to make it 22-13 with 2:36 to play before halftime, and the Knights went into the break on top, 24-19.
UCF pushed the lead back to nine points at 28-19 with 1:13 into the second half, but like it did a day before in a 64-56 come-back win over Marshall in the C-USA Semifinals, the Lady Eagles soared back to make things interesting. A basket by Stephanie Helgeson sparked a 17-8 Southern Miss run over the next 6:15 and the two teams were deadlocked at 36-all with 12:32 left in the period.
The two teams traded the next 20 points and the Knights appeared to take the momentum courtesy of a pair of free throws and a layup by Angelica Mealing to stake UCF to a 52-48 advantage with 4:15 left on the clock. The Southern Miss defense, however, did not allow another point and the Eagles scored four of their own down the stretch to tie things up and send the game to overtime.
Cannon - who was named Tournament MVP after averaging 14.3 points and 14.5 rebounds per game - was one of three UCF players to finish with double-digit scoring totals, joining Wiley with 18 and Mealing with 10. Patrick led all players with five assists.
Amber Eugene led Southern Miss in scoring with 14 points while Pauline Love and Helgeson joined her in the double-digit scoring column with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Love posted a double-double of her own with 12 rebounds to lead the Lady Eagles, while Eugene paced the club with three assists, and the duo of Andrea Barber and Candace Rucker posted four steals apiece.
Joining Cannon on the C-USA All-Tournament Team were Wiley of UCF, Barber and Love of Southern Miss, and Tynikki Crook of Marshall.
2009 Conference USA Women's Basketball All-Tournament Team
Tynikki Crook, So., F, Marshall
Chelsie Wiley, So., G, UCF
Andrea Barber, Sr., G, Southern Miss
Pauline Love, So., F, Southern Miss
Emma Cannon, So., F, UCF
Tournament Most Valuable Player: Emma Cannon, UCF