LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Central Florida senior forward Sara Djassi scored a career-high 28 points. It wasn't enough for Knights as they lost to No. 5 Louisville 75-56 Wednesday night.
UCF (8-8, 1-4 American Athletic Conference) has dropped seven of eight games since a 7-1 start. The Knights have faced two ranked teams the past two weeks and lost to defending champion and No. 1 Connecticut 77-49 on Jan. 1.
Djassi did her part to help the Knights, making 9 of 20 from the field and 7 of 12 free throws. Zykira Lewis added 14 points and Andrea Hines had a team-high nine rebounds for UCF.
"She's capable of doing of that every single night," UCF coach Joi Williams said of Djassi. "She hasn't really played up to her full scoring potential to this point. Tonight gave her some confidence to see that if she can play against these guys like that, you can play against a lot of teams."
It was the Knights' second game without Briahanna Jackson, who left the team for personal reasons last week. Jackson, last year's Conference USA Freshman of the Year, was leading the Knights in scoring at 17.8 points per game before leaving.
"Anytime something like that happens, you lose a teammate, you lose a player, it's a little transition," Williams added. "The thing about this, the timing of it, we had to transition very quickly. I think our team has done that. They've shown to be very resilient."
Starting forward Brittni Montgomery missed part of the first half after she fell to the ground hard underneath the basket. She returned and finished with four points and seven rebounds.
UCF went to the foul line once in the first half, when Aneesa Watson sank a free throw to complete a three-point play that made it 32-25 with 3:21 left. The Knights made 13 of 21 free throws in the second half.
The Knights kept it close until Louisville closed the first half with a 17-3 run to lead 42-26 at halftime.
Louisville led 57-34 midway through the second half. UCF rallied to close within 66-55 with 2:42 left, but Louisville finished the game with a 9-1 run.
"One thing we said was, fight until the end and don't look at the scoreboard, it doesn't matter," Djassi said. "If you make a mistake, get back. Get back and let's get a stop. That's the first thing we try to do."
Shoni Schimmel scored 27 points and Sara Hammond added 22 for Louisville, which won its 10th straight game.
Bria Smith added 10 points as the Cardinals (17-1, 5-0) matched their best 18-game start since the 2008-09 team began 19-1 and went on the NCAA championship game. This victory took work throughout as Louisville overcame a slow start to build a 23-point lead early in the second half, a cushion that came in handy after the determined Knights stormed back to get within 11 points.
Schimmel was just 8 of 22 from the field and 5 of 14 from 3-point range, but made several baskets including one from long range with 40 seconds left to seal the game.
The Cardinals outrebounded the Knights 46-34 and outscored them 32-20 in the paint to keep their hot streak alive.
Djassi got the Knights started against Louisville, scoring 12 of her team's first 16 points to provide the last of several small leads before the Cardinals outscored them 27-10 the rest of the half.
"We knew that she was their best player," Schimmel said of Djassi. "We knew she and (Lewis) were their best players. We knew it and we just took them lightly, which came to bite us in the back."