At the end of the college basketball season their will be two winners: The Women’s NCAA Tournament Champion and the Women’s NIT Champion. Unfortunately for the University of South Florida women’s basketball program they will not be either after a disappointing 62-52 loss to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at the Sun Dome on Wednesday evening.
Both programs came into the final match-up as conference foes — Rutgers is leaving the American Athletic Conference and joining the Big 10, after being snubbed by the NCAA Women’s Selection Committee snub. Scarlet Knights head Coach C Vivian Stringer felt comfortable voicing her displeasure about both teams missing out on the “Big Dance”
“Both of these teams deserve to be in the NCAA, so I’m not buying anything that anybody has to say about it.”
The American athletic conference as a basketball conference had to deal with major snubs from the men’s and women’s tournament selection committee. The Southern Methodist mens basketball team was also left out of the tournament this year despite winning 20 plus games. But just as with Rutgers, the Mustangs used the denial as motivation and advanced to the NIT finals where they eventually lost to Minnesota.
You never want your final game to end badly but for senior Inga Orekhova she could not have picked a worse game to have a terrible shooting performance. Orekhova, a senior from Ukraine, came into the game shooting 36% from beyond the three-point line but on Wednesday she continued her struggles against Rutgers by going 3-of-18 from the field and only scored 10 points.
While her collegiate career has concluded Orekhova will have nightmares about the Rutgers defenders — In three games this season she shot a combined 7-of-39.
With no help from the team’s second leading score the pressure was all on sophomore guard Courtney Williams and while she finished the game with 19 points and seven rebounds it wasnt enough.
The other senior for USF, Akila McDonald, ends her Bulls career in second place on the all-time shot block list with 194 and games played with 130.
As Rutgers prepares for the move to the Big Ten, coach Stringer knows the program will be in good hands for the 2014-15 season as they return every player currently on the roster. One of those players is freshman guard Tyler Scaife, who led the Scarlet Knights with 22 points and four rebounds. Also returning will be sophomore center Rachel Hollivay, who understood how important it was to limit the Bulls on the interior with them shooting so poorly from outside
“We shut them down on the outside so it was a must that I shut them down on the inside” said Hollivay who finished the game with eight blocks and 12 points.
With the conclusion of the 2013-14 season the focus begins on next year for head coach Jose Fernandez. With the defection Louisville and Rutgers to other conferences, he understands that the program must improve the strength of their non-coference schedule if they plan on fulfilling that promise of a NCAA tournament bid.