With a pair of victories during the Thanksgiving break, the USF women’s basketball team has already managed to match last season’s win total of four.
The Bulls (4-0) dispatched Bethune-Cookman 77-58 Wednesday in their home opener, then came back Saturday and handed Division I newcomer Savannah State a rude welcoming, 101-47, Saturday at the Sun Dome.
“Time and wins cure a lot of the pain we suffered through last year,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
Pain was something the Bulls experienced often a year ago, when Fernandez’s inaugural team went 4-24. However, this year’s squad has equaled the 2000-01 team’s win total without dropping a game.
“Things are turning around,” Fernandez said. “This is great for the players and for the staff. I think it is significant to come back after winning a quality tournament (the Boston University Invitational) last weekend and pick up two wins at home. We have to keep it going and defend our home court.”
That could prove difficult with USF’s next two guests being Miami and Florida, but both BCC and Savannah State were hospitable guests for the holidays.
The Tigers (1-3) were within nine at the break, 41-32, Saturday, but an explosive outburst from USF made the contest a runaway by the end. The Bulls used a 30-0 second-half run to demoralize SSU, keyed by three-pointers from Sonia Cotton and Allison AuBuchon. During the seven-minute blitz, the Bulls stretched a 52-40 margin to 82-40 while stripping the Tigers 10 times.
Led by 20 from Jen Kline, Fernandez’s quartet of freshmen each scored in double figures. Alana Tanksley, Tristen Webb, Kline and AuBuchon yielded 62 of USF’s 101 points. The 101 is the sixth highest total in the program’s 30-year history, while the margin of victory (54) placed fifth on the USF charts.
“There was plenty to go around,” Fernandez said. “We had four freshmen play 19 or more minutes tonight. Once the lead became 25 points, the game became about getting everyone playing time.”
Against the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman, the Bulls didn’t get much of a test either, leading by as much as 29 in the second half. Kline was the highest scorer again, pacing the squad with 16. However, Kline and the rest of the team had to overcome a sluggish shooting night. The Bulls were 5-of-27 (18.5 percent) from three-point range, with Kline the leader, connecting on 3-of-12.
“They’re wide open threes,” Fernandez said. “There are going to be nights when they’re not going to fall.”
The USF defense provided the answer, forcing 31 BCC turnovers. The Bulls had 20 steals on the night, with Aiya Shepard doing the most damage with her six thefts.
“When the game started, we got our heads down a little bit because our first three three-point attempts all rimmed in and out,” Fernandez said. “We have to create our offense out of our defense, and that’s what we did in the second half.”
- Anthony Gagliano covers women’s basketball and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org