It’s not very noticeable – especially after the 30-point loss to No. 4 Connecticut on Jan. 24 – but the women’s basketball team is in the midst of a turnaround.
The Bulls (15-7, 5-4) have won four of their past five games after dropping four of the five before those.
The last five games, in which the loss to the Huskies was just an “embarrassment” to the players and staff, is the turnaround, according to coach Jose Fernandez.
“Last home (stand) I wasn’t very happy with how we played even though we beat Syracuse and Providence,” Fernandez said.
“We were headed into a direction where we deserved what we got against Connecticut. We weren’t even talking about the NCAA tournament because if we continued to play the way we had been, we weren’t even going to make the damn NIT or NCAA tournament. I mean, guys, we lost three games by five points, but geez, we can’t look back on the past.”
In Tuesday’s win, the Bulls had a lead as large as 21 and four players with double digits in scoring, including senior Ezria Parsons’ double-double of 13 points and 12 rebounds. The Wildcats only had one player, guard Jenna Viani, with 11 points. Villanova had a remarkable 18 points off the bench compared to USF’s two, but also attempted 23 three-pointers to the Bulls’ seven.The Bulls held Villanova to 29 percent shooting from field-goal range with a defense that Fernandez said has gotten “progressively” worse since last season.
“We went from being one of the best defensive teams in Conference USA to the worst in the Big East,” Fernandez said. “That falls on accountability to the players and the coaches.”Parsons agreed.
“If we want to be that NCAA team, we have to practice and play like one,” Parsons said. “We took (the loss to Connecticut) very hard. Personally, I thought we shouldn’t have lost by that much because they are not that much better than us. We didn’t play like we could. So we watched a lot of film, really focused in practice and proved we can play much, much better tonight.”
While the team’s defense is ranked 250 out of 315 Division-I teams, junior Jessica Dickson says playing “focused” defense has been “stressed” at practice.
“(Fernandez) told us to guess where out defense ranked,” said Dickson, the nation’s leading scorer, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “We knew it was low, but we didn’t know it was that low. And now we’ve been going over (other teams’) sets a lot and working at it hard.”