After not getting an invite to the NCAA tournament, the University of South Florida Women’s basketball team had one of two choices: Sulk and be upset about it or use it as motivation to prove to the selection committee that they made a mistake.
In defeating the North Carolina A&T Aggies on Friday 65-60 and easily winning against the Stetson University Hatters on Sunday 75-56 it looks as if the team chose the latter.
Call it what you want; Big Dance disappointment hangover or rust from not playing a game in over a week, but it seemed as if the Bulls struggled to find consistency not only in the first half but throughout the game. Not to take anything from the Aggies team that came into the game with a 24-7 record and non-conference victories over Georgia St. and Stetson, but this was not the same USF team whose five losses in the 2014 calendar year came at the hands of No. 1 ranked Uconn and No. 3 ranked Louisville. Even though they held a 31-23 halftime lead they were being out-rebounded 19-16 and gave up 11 second chance points to the bigger Aggies frontcourt. One thing USF was able to do was get NC A&T into foul trouble. Five of their eight players went into the half with two fouls, including starting center April McRae who was forced to the watch the rest of the half from the bench after picking up her second foul at the 9:08 mark.
With the 6’3 redshirt sophomore out of the paint, the Bulls took advantage and went on a 16-8 run to end the half.
In the second half the fouls were not called as frequently against the Aggies and they were able to keep it close and was within three with 4:16 left in the game. But two crucial free-throws and a made lay-up by Alisia Jenkins within a one-minute stretch increased the lead to seven, 54-47, and the Aggies couldn’t get the deficit any closer than six.
In defeat the Aggies were led by sophomore Christina Carter’s 15 points — but she took 15 shots, only converting six of her attempts, to reach double figures for the 14th time this season
Jenkins, who posted her 13th double-double of the season, led the team with 17 points while grabbing 11 rebounds. Senior Inga Orekhova, who seems to be intent on delaying turning in her Bulls uniform for the last time, chipped in 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting — including two three-pointers.
With Stetson upsetting the University of Miami the night before, USF knew that they would get another home game against the Hatters and looked to have a more comfortable victory than the 72-68 close victory in the early season match-up
The Bulls were up to the task as they easily defeated the Stetson Hatters 75-56 on Saturday afternoon to advance in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.
Senior center Akilah McDonald got off to a rocky start with an early turnover and poor post defense and was pulled at the 16:45 mark of the first half, and while she was visibly upset on the bench she turned the negative into a positive by turning in the game of the season for her — McDonald finished the game with 21 points on 10-of-11 shooting and 12 rebounds.
Unlike against the tougher interior players of North Carolina A&T, the Bulls found success inside the paint and they outscored Stetson 42-28.
But they were also efficient beyond the three-point arc as well. Fellow senior Inga Orekhova scored 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting including six of the Bulls seven three-pointers on the night.
The hatters were led by guard Britani Saunders 16 points, 9 of which came from the free-throw line, and 7 rebounds but they were never able to size disadvantage that the Bulls presented and only shot 32% from the field.
Coach Jose Fernandez now has four days to prepare for another tournament home game as they face the George Washington Colonials on Thursday evening at 7pm in the Sun Dome.