The USF women’s basketball team begins a tough two-game homestand Saturday when the Bulls face Houston, the 24th ranked team in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, at 3 pm.
USF (8-11, 1-5 Conference USA) enjoys a 7-4 advantage in the all-time series against the Cougars (15-3, 4-1), one of the few conference teams the Bulls own a better all-time series record against, but that record is very deceiving, especially as of late.
Houston has won the last four meetings against the Bulls, including a 77-73 victory last season in Houston. The main reason for Houston’s recent success is the play of standout guard Chandi Jones. Jones, the reigning two-time Conference USA Player of the Year and a two-time honorable mention All-American, has always enjoyed success against the Bulls, which includes a 26-point, 13-rebound performance last year.
Jones enters Saturday’s game as the second leading scorer in the conference, averaging a little more than 21 points per game. And not only do the Bulls have to deal with Jones, but they also must deal with a team coming off its first loss in the 11 games after Louisville snapped the team’s 10-game winning streak last Sunday.
Though the Bulls don’t tend to play zone defense very often, the team possibly could benefit from playing a box-and-1. That defense would allow one USF player to shadow Jones the entire game, like Rachel Sheats, who stands out as one of the Bulls’ better defenders. It could make it tough for Houston’s best player to get the ball.
But the Bulls must also deal with one of the conference’s better defensive teams. Houston ranks third in scoring defense, which is ominous for the Bulls, who rank 10th in the conference in field-goal percentage this season.
The Bulls also enter the game shorthanded with both Tristen Webb and Rae Rae Sayles officially done for the season. The loss of Webb is probably the biggest obstacle the team must overcome, especially with Melissa Tape doubtful after suffering a concussion last weekend.
Webb had worked her way back into the rotation, oftentimes the first player off USF’s bench, now the Bulls must rely on players like Alana Tanksley, Sharon Cambridge and Andrea Armstrong to pick up the slack offensively.