Women's basketball ready for UCF's up-tempo play style
The Central Florida women's basketball program is on the rise, and Sue Guevara is well aware.
In just her third season as head coach, Katie Abrahamson-Henderson has the Knights off to a 3-0 start to the season. Just one year prior to Abrahamson-Henderson's arrival in 2016-17, UCF was 7-23 under Joi Williams.
Abrahamson-Henderson immediately delivered with a 21-12 mark and a trip to the second round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). Her second season was yet another improvement.
Following 108-point performance in a win against Western Kentucky, Central Michigan battles UCF at 5 p.m. on Nov. 21 at McGuirk Arena.
Guevara is extremely familiar with Abrahamson-Henderson's style of play. She pushes her players to deliver an up-tempo, in-your face offense and defense. Guevara expects the Knights to put on a full-court press from the start while looking to score off forced turnovers.
"I've known Katie for a long, long time," Guevara said. "I knew her when she was an assistant coach at Michigan State (2000-02) and I was at Michigan (1996-2003). When you've been around for a minute, you know a lot of people."
In her 12th season at CMU's coach, Guevara mentioned she always knew Abrahamson-Henderson would make for an outstanding leader of a program – even dating back to when UCF's coach played college hoops for Georgia and Iowa.
Now, Guevara has the chance to face her.
Throughout early week practices, the Chippewas (2-1) have noted multiple positive facets of UCF's game. Guevara hopes her group will be able to counter everything the Knights (3-0) throw at them on Wednesday.
"Katie will go nine deep because she's pressing," Guevara said. "They want to wear you down where you have tired legs in the fourth quarter. We haven't played a team like this. It's a different style, which prepares us for March."
CMU starts three guards in senior Presley Hudson, sophomore Micaela Kelly and sophomore Maddy Watters – all with quickness, top-notch passing ability and strong decision-making skills.
Of the three, Watters is still finding her groove. Wednesday will highlight her third-career start for the Chippewas. Guevara has pushed the 5-foot-9 guard throughout the early stages to shoot the ball as much as she can. Watters scored 18 points on 6-of-9 from 3-point range.
Guevara wants more of the same.
"I would rather see shot attempts than turnovers," Guevara said. "If a coach is telling you to shoot, why wouldn't you shoot – especially since you put the work in. I'm looking for consistency."
Hudson logs 28 points and 5.3 assists per game, proving herself one of top floor generals in the nation. Senior forward Reyna Frost is a double-double machine with 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per contest. The catch is she can dish the ball when needed, tossing out seven assists her last time out.
Beyond the five starters of Hudson, Kelly, Watters, Frost and center Jahari Smith, Guevara said she has seen ample improvement from center Kyra Bussell, freshman guard Anika Weekes and freshman forward Samantha Robinson.
"Bussell gave us some good minutes (against Western Kentucky)," Guevara added. "She can help us because of her strength on the blocks and high-post shot. (I'm) keeping her on that mantra of staying aggressive when looking at the basket."
The Knights are paced by senior guard Sydnee McDonald, who Guevara referred to as a constant 3-point threat. McDonald, a Flint, Mich., native, has made 42.9 percent of her shots from 3-point range for 14.7 points per game.
Kornelia Wright leads UCF with 17.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest.
"Syd's a good player," Guevara said. "They have some nice inside play and want to beat you off the bounce. When you know there's a good 3-point shooter out there, you have to be up and have a hand in the face."
Abrahamson-Henderson has UCF headed in the right direction to start 2018, but her group will face their toughest test against Guevara's Chippewas on Nov. 21 at McGuirk Arena.