On a night when the University of South Florida’s leading scorer, guard Courtney Williams, was held to four points on 2-of-7 shooting, the USF Bulls got career scoring games from two other players and defeated the Memphis Tigers 91-68.
Memphis was able to limit Williams, who had just scored a career high 35 points versus Temple on Saturday, but Inga Orekhova made the Tigers pay by setting her own career high of 33 points on 10-of-13 shooting including 6-of-9 from beyond the three-point arch. It seemed as if whenever Memphis would collapse their defense in the paint to contain Williams, Inga would get the pass and make an open shot– her first three-pointer started the scoring for the Bulls and she had another one to end the first half to give the Bulls a 15 point lead. Even on the night that she was scoring at will, Orekhova a senior from the Ukraine, also showcased her passing ability by dishing out seven assists.
Also coming up big was forward Alisia Jenkins. Jenkins, a 6’1 sophomore that plays bigger than her measurements , not only scored a career high 19 points, but also had a career high 18 rebounds.
Jenkins normally plays the high energy role for the Bulls, but on Tuesday night her offensive game was on display as she connected on 81% of her 11 shot attempts — on the season she had been only shooting 43% from the field.
“You look at the stats, we played well offensively,” said USF Head Coach Jose Fernandez. “We were unselfish, we shared the ball, we knocked down shots… I think the way we shot the ball tonight, we’re a good basketball team.”
The Bulls shot 61% from the field and 44% from beyond the three-point line and improved to 16-11 on the season.
One point of concern even in the blowout victory was the rebounding margin — the Bulls were out-rebounded 35-32 with Memphis collecting 14 on the offensive end.
“The glass was a big concern for us” said Coach Fernandez “That’s very uncharacteristic, us giving up as many offensive rebounds as we did tonight.”
If the team wants to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive they must fix this issue prior to the final two games of the regular season. Defending the flare screens and protecting the paint when opposing teams attack the basket was also a point of concern that must be addressed before playing SMU in the home finale Saturday.
The Bulls did do a good job of limiting the Tigers’ leading scorer guard Ariel Hearn and while she finished with 21 points, three 1st-half fouls limited her to only four points. Hearn recovered nicely in the second half by shooting 5-of-10, but the bulk of her points were scored when the game was already out of reach for the Tigers.
The 11th conference victory for the Bulls clinched at least a 4th place finish in the American Athletic Conference.
If they are able to defeat SMU, the March 3rd game with Rutgers in Piscataway NJ will decide who finishes 3rd in the conference and more importantly allows the winner to avoid having to face the No. 1 ranked Uconn Huskies in the AAC tournament semi-finals.