The USF women’s basketball team enters the semester break looking to improve on some areas that have hurt the Bulls this season, and shooting is the primary concern.
“We definitely need to improve our shooting percentage,” Fernandez said. “In our two losses to Miami and Florida, we shot under 32 percent, and that’s just not going to get it done against good teams. But you look at the statistical categories, we’re one of the top defensive clubs in Conference USA. We’re also one of the top rebounding teams in the conference. So there are a lot of positives.”
The team is shooting 36 percent on the season, but is coming off a loss to Florida, in which USF shot just 24 percent to the Gators’ 57 percent. Fernandez said the game was much closer than the 70-55 score indicated and better shooting might have given the Bulls a win.
However, the Bulls have some time to correct the problem. The team does not play another game until Dec. 14, when it begins a three-game road trip against FSU in Tallahassee. USF also plays Dec. 19 at UC-Riverside, Dec. 21 at UNLV, Dec. 28 at home against Canisius and Dec. 30 at home against Florida Atlantic. Fernandez said the team will continue to follow its “one game at a time” mantra, however, and is focused solely on the Seminoles for now.
“Florida State is a very talented ballclub. They have some good players back from last year, and they had one of the top recruiting classes in the country,” Fernandez said. “It was a very competitive game at home last year, but now we’re going on the road. And it’s another state foe, so it’s going to be pretty exciting.”
One bright spot in the loss was the play of forward Sharon Cambridge. The sophomore led the team with a career-high 15 points and had seven rebounds. Starting forward Andrea Armstrong played just 14 minutes while Cambridge played 31. And though Fernandez didn’t say Cambridge would definitely start against FSU, he said the increased playing time might continue.
“I’m very proud of how hard Sharon has worked and all the improvement that she has made is a credit to her and her determination,” he said. “But right now we’re taking the next 10 or 12 days to look at what we’ve done right so far and to look at what we need to improve on.”
Last season, USF opened at 4-3, but a 1-4 record during the winter break set them in a downward spiral that did not stop until the team finished the season at 7-20. But that is behind this year’s team, Fernandez said, and USF (3-3) is not even thinking about it.
“We put last year behind us after we played TCU (in the season finale),” Fernandez said. “So, we’re not talking about last year. This is a whole different team from last year, so you really can’t compare last season to this season.”While Fernandez did not know who would comprise his starting lineup for the break, the season’s first six games have given him an idea of what his roster is shaping like.
“We’re still going with the same interior people,” Fernandez said. “Nalini (Miller), Sharon, Andrea and hopefully now Ezria Parsons, being healthy again, will play a much bigger role on our ball club entering this three game road trip.
“As for point guard duties, well, Anedra Gilmore has just risen to the occasion. She’s a winner. She’s won a national championship (at Gulf Cost Community College). She just leads by example, and we are very excited just by how much she’s grown, by how much she is respected by her teammates and by how well she’s played up until now this year.”
However, the Bulls will be without forward Rae Rae Sayles for half of the games during the break. Sayles was suspended for three games after violating team rules.
Fernandez said Sayles will rejoin her teammates Tuesday in practice.