The University of South Florida women’s basketball team returned home hoping to find its shooting touch, which evaded the Bulls in their first two games of the season at Miami and Florida. It took until Sunday for the ball to bounce the Bulls’ way, as USF shot 47 percent from the field and 53 percent from three-point range to help USF defeat Birmingham Southern 80-66 in the USF Best Western Roundball Classic Championship game.
“This was definitely our best offensive game of the year,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “I was very pleased with our overall team effort.”
The Bulls failed to crack 30 percent from the floor in their first two games on the road. USF improved slightly in its first two home games against Chicago State and Bethune-Cookman, but the Bulls still failed to reach 40 percent shooting.
Although the Bulls managed to pull out victories in their first two home games, their shooting continued to struggle.
But the Bulls found their touch en route to producing their biggest offensive output of the season.
The tournament title, USF’s second consecutive, gave the Bulls a three game winning streak and a winning record for the first time this season.
The hot shooting allowed four USF players to reach double figures. Tristen Webb led all USF players with 21 points on 7-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-3 from three-point range. Alana Tanksley shot 4-of-5 from three-point range to post 16 points, and center Jameelah Trimble came off the bench to post a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Senior Sonia Cotton, who scored 16 points on 7-of-15 shooting, and junior Sarah Lochmann were named to the All-Tournament Team, with Cotton capturing Tournament MVP honors.
Cotton ended her early season shooting woes by posting 16 points against BCC, and added 21 rebounds in the tournament.
“The two games against Miami and Florida I know I didn’t do very well, so I knew I had to pick it up,” Cotton said. “I’m confident now, so I should have some better games coming up. My shot has come back.”
Lochmann put up 12 points and 10 rebounds in the first tournament game against BCC, and added six points and five boards against BSC. In addition to putting up some good numbers in the tournament, Lochmann played with virtually no time on the bench. She spent only eight out of 85 minutes off the court.
“I’m not like Sonia, one of the superstars for the team,” Lochmann said. ” I just go out and try my hardest and do what I can for the team.”
Cotton and Lochmann believe the Bulls have built up some confidence during their home stand and the team just needs to execute like they did this weekend to continue their success.
“I think we just need to be more consistent,” Cotton said. “If we play like we did the past two days, then we’ll be successful throughout the year.
“It seems like everyone on the team is more confident right now,” Lochmann said. “Especially on offense.”
Although Fernandez was happy with the Bulls’ game Sunday, Saturday night’s game against BCC wasn’t as pleasant.
USF squandered a 19-point lead in the first half and was forced to go into overtime to pull out a 66-59 victory.
USF caught a break before the game even started, as the BCC bench received a technical foul for not giving their starting lineup to the officials on time. Lochmann sank two free throws to give the Bulls a 2-0 advantage before the game started. The points seemed meaningless at the time, but BCC would have avoided overtime and won the game if the foul never occurred.
The Bulls led 29-10 with 4:48 remaining in the first half, after USF’s defense held BCC to four points over an 11-minute stretch. The Bulls entered halftime up 33-20.
However, BCC fought back in the second half to tie the game at 54 behind consecutive three pointers by forward Latonya Reed.Poor shooting throughout the game plagued the Bulls, as they shot 28 percent from the field and made just 4-of-24 three-point attempts.
“I was very disappointed that we didn’t play 40 minutes and get this game over with,” Fernandez said. “I was disappointed we only went into the locker room up 13.”
“We let them hang around and they got the momentum,” Fernandez said.
However, overtime was a different story for USF as they shot 75 percent from the floor in the extra period. Lochmann hit a three pointer with 47 seconds remaining in overtime to push the Bulls’ lead to 64-59 and secure the win.
“I was pleased we got the win,” Fernandez said. “But I was very disappointed in our offense. People just didn’t’ step up and make shots.”
The Bulls jumped into the win column with a 56-44 victory against CSU on Wednesday. USF’s defense held CSU’s offense to 21 percent shooting and forced 21 turnovers.
Lochmann scored 15 points and added 7 rebounds to lead the Bulls. Trimble also scored in double figures (13 points) and Cotton added nine points and nine boards.
USF remains home for a Wednesday night match-up with Jacksonville at 7 p.m. in the Sun Dome, and a Saturday home contest with Florida State.
Adam Adkins covers USF women’s basketball and can be reached at email@example.com