The Bulls (14-5, 3-3) climbed back to .500 in conference play after defeating Marquette, 58-48, on Saturday night in the Sun Dome.
Senior guards Andrea and Andrell Smith got into early foul trouble and played for a combination of 10 minutes in the first half, but the Bulls were backed by energetic play from freshmen forward Alisia Jenkins, guard Courtney Williams, and guard Shavontae Naylor.
Naylor played 12 minutes of active defense, Jenkins snagged 11 rebounds and Williams scored 10 points leading to the victory.
The three freshmen gave us great minutes in the first half, coach Jose Fernandez said.
Junior guard Inga Orekhova also played a role in the win, scoring eight points in the firsthalf and finishing with ateam-high of 15.
Fernandez benched the Smith twins after they quickly gained two fouls each, citing USFs jump to an early lead as a reason for doing so.
Youre up six or eight, why risk it?Fernandez said.
Fernandez strategy worked, and the twins returned to the court in the second half, where they evaded foul trouble and combined for 16 points and five assists.
The Bulls shot a low 30 percent from the field in the first half, but finished ahead ofMarquette, 24-18.
With the Smith twins on the sideline for the majority of this portion of the game, spectators at the Sun Dome got the opportunity to witness some of the younger players resilience.
Naylor, Jenkins and Williams maintained focus and held up well without their mentors,
Andrea and Andrell Smith on the floor.
Naylor went scoreless in the eight minutes that she played, but made up for it by playing lockdown defense and racing up and down the court whenever the ball changed hands.
Jenkins was a force in the paint and came down with five rebounds in 14 minutes and the speedy Williams scored eight points and picked Marquettes pockets three times in 18 minutes.
Coach Fernandez was impressed by the trios performance.
Those three young guys are coming of age. Fernandez said
According to Fernandez, Naylor, Jenkins and Williams will continue to see playing time, regardless of class rank, as long as they continue to execute fundamentals out on the floor.
The best people play whether you are a freshman or a senior, he said.
USF forced 23 turnovers, 13 of which were steals and swatted seven shots.
Orekhova, who also recorded four blocks, said defense has become an integral part of USFs practice sessions.
Weve been working on our defense for a while now in practice. Thats our focus now, she said.
USF looks to maintain the defensive intensity displayed against Marquette in the next home game versus No. 13 ranked Louisville at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.