Sophomore guard Courtney Williams had seven rebounds and two assist to go along with the 21 points on 9-for-15 shooting as she led the University of South Florida Bulls to a 57-48 victory over the Cincinnati Bearcats. The win was USF’s fourth in five games as they improved to 10-8 overall and 5-2 in the AAC on the season.
This was the fifth 20 point scoring game on the season for Williams and it came at a perfect time for Head Coach Jose Fernandez as he is trying to build some continuity with his starting line-up due to injuries.
Although he used the same starters for a second consecutive game against the Bearcats on Tuesday, Coach Fernandez has implemented six different line-ups involving 10 different players over the first 17 games.
The position hit the hardest by the injury bug is point guard — In the last game versus UCF they lost freshman guard Trimaine McCullough to an ACL injury. Her replacements, the duo of freshman Laura Marcos-Canedo and sophomore Shalethia Stringfield have stepped up and contributed in relief and look to take on a bigger role as they look to replace the teams starting point guard in five of the previous six games.
One player that is expected to take on a bigger leadership role is senior center Akila McDonald. Against the Bearcats she finished the game with 10 points six rebounds and most importantly zero fouls. With the game tied 22-22 at half coach Fernandez admitted that he told McDonald as well as the other USF post players that they needed to be more aggressive offensively and defensively in the low post– McDonald had only taken two shots and as a collective the post players had zero offensive boards despite the team shooting 9-for-31 from the field.
They adjusted in the second half and not only did McDonald triple her shot output to six, while doing a better job of limiting Bearcat forward Jeanise Randolph. “I knew personally I didn’t want her (Randolph) to score,” said McDonald when asked about the second half defensive turnaround “so i just made a pact to myself that I wasnt going to let anyone else score in the paint.” After converting 3-for-6 shots in the first half, Randolph only converted two more baskets and finished the game with 12 ponts while going 5-for-12 from the field.
The team also ended up with four offensive rebounds from the center and power forward position and seemed to be playing with more aggression. That determination also lead to an increase in foul shot attempts– going from four in the first half to finishing with 17 for the game.
Cincinnati, who falls to 8-10 on theseason, was led by guard Dayeesha Hollins’ 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting six assists and seven rebounds. This was the sixth loss in seven conference games for the Bearcats, who now go home to face UCF on January 25th.
The Bulls head to Hartford CT January 26th to face the #1 ranked UConn Huskies who led by sophomore Breanna Stewart who is third in the conference in scoring averaging 18.3 points per game. This will be a tough test for the Bulls who look to capture their fourth road victory in conference play.