The USF women’s basketball team has a tough task ahead of it tonight when the Bulls square off against the Richmond Spiders in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in Richmond, Va., at 7 p.m.
The Bulls (14-14) are making their first postseason appearance in 26 years — and their first in a modern tournament — and they’re going into the game relying heavily on the output of a freshmen trio consisting of Jessica Dickson, Nalini Miller and Rachael Sheats, all of whom are likely to start tonight.
Even though the Bulls may be inexperienced in postseason play, as opposed to the Spiders who are making their fifth postseason appearance, the Bulls may have an X-factor on their side.
USF junior point guard Anedra Gilmore, a junior college transfer from Gulf Coast Community College, won a national championship last season — so if one person knows how to handle the differences between regular season and postseason games, it’s Gilmore.
And though she said that her current team differs from her former, there is one constant that she believes needs to be carried over.
“The difference is I think you have to be a little more focused,” Gilmore said. “At Gulf Coast we were more like the top dogs, but here we’re more of the underdogs, and a lot of people may not think that we’re supposed to be here.
“But I think that helps us out a little bit because we are focused and we want to win, and I think the main thing is that if we stay focused, we can win.”
But the game likely will come down to the play of the freshmen, especially Dickson, Conference USA’s reigning Freshman of the Year and the nation’s leading freshman scorer. And although lack of experience may be a factor, Dickson’s teammates believe she and the other freshmen are more than capable to lead the Bulls to a win.
“They’ve done a fabulous job all year long,” senior Sarah Lochmann said. “They’re to the point to where they know what they have to do (in order) to get us to where we have to go.”
“I think that freshman is just (something in front of) a name,” Gilmore said. “If you’re a quality player and you’re ready, it doesn’t matter what year you are.
“As long as you can bring leadership in your own way, I don’t think it matters. I think it’s more of your will and desire and who you are as a person. And we don’t have freshmen any more; they’re sophomores, because we’ve moved into the second part of our season.”
The second part of the Bulls’ season begins with a tough task. Richmond finished second in the Western Division of the Atlantic 10. The Spiders also have three players who average double figures, led by Kate Flavin, who averages 18 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
USF coach Jose Fernandez isn’t going to try anything different tonight. The Bulls will lean upon defense to get things started, and they hope they will be able to create a few things on offense using a full-court press.
“We’re going to try and make it an up-tempo game,” Fernandez said. “We’ve taken pride in our defensive intensity all year, so hopefully we can wear them down.”
Though Fernandez said the Spiders like to get out and run some, too, their best attribute could be in the half-court set. Richmond isn’t shy about letting the ball fly from the three-point line, putting up 349 three-point attempts this season. Saona Chapman and Araceli Gil each have attempted more than 140 three-point shots this season, and each have connected on at least 32 percent of those shots.
“They (have) got two kids that can shoot the ball real well, so I don’t think we’ll play much zone,” Fernandez said. “In the half-court (offense), they don’t make very many mistakes.”
Armstrong will not travel with team
USF junior Andrea Armstrong will not travel with the USF women’s basketball team to Richmond for the Bulls’ first-round WNIT game tonight, USF coach Jose Fernandez said Tuesday.
Armstrong, a transfer from Kansas State who averaged 3.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 11.3 minutes per game this season, was with the team for its first-round loss to Cincinnati in the Conference USA tournament March 4.
Fernandez would not comment on the reason for Armstrong missing the trip nor specify on her current status with the team.