With an offense that was churning out 82.7 points per game, the USF women’s basketball team was steamrolling through opponents on the way to an 11-3 start.
All of that came to an abrupt end this weekend when Conference USA foes DePaul and Marquette came to town.
Stifled by the Golden Eagles’ 2-3 matchup zone and grounded by the Blue Demons’ deliberate tempo, the Bulls (11-5, 1-2 in C-USA) couldn’t manage to score more than 70 points in either contest and dropped both games.
The Bulls offense seemed sparked in the first half Sunday against DePaul (10-2, 3-0 in C-USA), shooting 7-of-12 from three-point range. But Lenae Williams overshadowed the Bulls’ offensive output, putting up 16 points and eight rebounds to give the Blue Demons a 45-40 lead at the half.
DePaul extended its lead by jumping out of the gates in the second with an 8-0 run. USF responded with a 6-0 run of its own after Williams was forced to the bench with foul trouble. USF even managed to slash the deficit to two, 66-64, with a minute and 24 seconds to play. However, the 6-foot-1 Williams saved the Blue Demons by hitting a leaning jump shot over 5-foot-6 Melissa Tape to give DePaul a four-point lead with a minute to play, and the foul shooting of Jenni Dent preserved the Blue Demons’ 74-69 victory.
Williams scored 22 points on the day, shooting 7-of-12 from the floor and 4-of-5 from behind the three-point arc, while Dent was a perfect 8-of-8 from the charity stripe, including sinking all four of her attempts in the game’s final 40 seconds.
“Jenni Dent was a huge key,” Fernandez said. “She had 12 big points. She didn’t miss any free throws. When (Williams) was out, they did a good job offensively of taking the shot clock down. In two or three possessions, they take the shot clock down to (three or four seconds) just like the other night against Marquette, and we don’t block out.”
Friday, Marquette (9-7, 2-1 in C-USA) rattled off an 11-0 run to close the first half, in the process blowing open a 28-25 ballgame en route to a 70-54 victory.
“The game of basketball’s a game of spurts,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “We didn’t play every possession like it’s the last one of the game, and that’s what I told our kids. We’re clawing back out of a hole all game.”
A putback by Sarah Lochmann trimmed the Bulls deficit to one, 21-20, with six minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the half. The Golden Eagles then switched from man-to-man to the 2-3 zone, and the Bulls couldn’t find an answer. USF shot 31.7 percent from the field for the game, 6-of-27 from three-point range (22.2 percent).
“Marquette does a great job in their zone defense, but when you don’t really have a post presence in there, it’s really easy for teams to match up with your guards,” Fernandez said.
The weekend was not without a high note for the Bulls. Junior Aiya Shepard led the team in scoring in both games, with 14 against Marquette and 25 vs. DePaul, respectively. Those two outputs pushed Shepard onto the 1,000-point plateau and past Sharon McKinney, Jenny Koeppel and Shannon Layne for 10th place on USF’s career scoring chart. Shepard is the 13th Bull to reach that territory.
- Anthony Gagliano covers women’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org