Miami Sun (0-0) at USF (0-0)When: Sunday, 2 p.m.Where: The CorralTV/Radio: None
Just over seven months ago, the USF women’s basketball team saw its season come to an end with a 73-71 loss to the Virginia Cavaliers in the third round of the National Invitation Tournament. On Sunday, the Bulls will play their only exhibition of the 2007-2008 season: USF will host the Miami Sun.
The Bulls are hoping that their new-look lineup will get them back into the NCAA championship tournament for the second time in three years. Head coach Jose Fernandez is satisfied with the progress his team has made during the off-season.
“I like where we’re at right now,” Fernandez said. “I think that the team has grasped what we are trying to do – both offensively and defensively – and from top to bottom, I feel this is the most talented team we’ve had at USF.”
This season, USF will look at one player in particular to help fill the void left by the departure of the Bulls’ all-time leading scorer – in men’s and women’s basketball – Jessica Dickson. Junior guard Shantia Grace will be the focal point of the team this season. Last year, Grace was second on the team with 14.4 points per game. Her 4.7 assists per game led the Bulls, and she was second in the Big East Conference. Grace also earned a spot on the All-Big East Conference, second team.
Another returning player likely to see a greater role is senior forward ChiChi Okpaleke. During the most productive season of her career, Okpaleke averaged career highs in both points per game (7.0) and rebounds per game (6.5).
One player who could make an immediate impact is junior center Jessica Lawson. A transfer from the University of California in 2005, Lawson has yet to play for the Bulls. After sitting out the 2005-2006 season because of transfer rules, Lawson hoped to play in 2006. However, she tore her anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus and suffered a fractured kneecap. The injuries caused her to miss her second consecutive season.
While the team is eager to play, Fernandez is making sure the team keeps the game in perspective.
“We know that this is just an exhibition, and an exhibition is just like another practice,” Fernandez said. “The game doesn’t help our conference record or give us another win.”