Bulls battle Rutgers

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAMETIME

When: Tonight 7 p.m.Where: Louis Brown Athletic CenterTelevision/Radio: CSTV/ 860 AM

Despite its slow start, Rutgers remains one of the biggest challenges USF will face this season. The Scarlet Knights struggled early this season after losing star Cappie Pondexter to the Phoenix Mercury in the 2006 WNBA Draft.

Last season’s encounter between the two teams proved to be one of the most exciting games of the year. Jessica Dickson led USF with a career-high 37 points – but it wasn’t quite enough – and Pondexter’s 40 points helped the Scarlet Knights to a 67-66 victory at the Sun Dome.

Coach Jose Fernandez feels tonight’s match-up should be just as competitive and a road victory over Rutgers is the first step toward capturing USF’s first conference championship.

“When you go on the road, teams are so good,” Fernandez said. “If you can win half or three quarters of (the games) on the road, you’re finishing in the top four or five in the league.”

Rutgers has proven to be a tough home team, as the Scarlet Knights routed then-No. 22 Pittsburgh 63-39 during week five of the season. The loss knocked the Panthers out of the Top 25.

Rutgers began the year ranked No. 12 and remained ranked until back-to-back losses against Duke and DePaul stripped them in week six.

The Bulls have received 32 votes in the AP’s national ranking poll for week 10 of the season.

This season Rutgers has received a surprising boost from freshman Epiphanny Prince, who leads the team in scoring (16.3 ppg), steals (31) and is second in assists (3.7 apg), even though the guard has only started six of the Scarlet Knights’ 12 games this season.

Keep an Eye on: Forward ChiChi Okpaleke. Ever since Fernandez inserted her into the starting lineup, the junior has responded. In USF’s last outing against Cincinnati, Okpaleke registered her first double-double of the year with 10 points and 14 rebounds, including 11 on the defensive end.

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