The USF womensbasketball teamentered Saturdaysmatchup against No.8Syracuse coming off of their huge upset win atNo.10 Louisville, trying togain momentum at the tail end of the season.
The Bulls (19-7, 8-5) have beaten two Top 25 teams in a span of four days with a 68-66 win over the Orange (22-4, 10-3).
With USF down 11 athalftime and shooting under 30 percent from the field, it seemed as though USF was losing its grip on the game.
But USF coach JoseFernandez said he knew his squad wasnt out just yet.
Lets just be calm. Were notgoing to get it back all at once, USF coach Jose Fernandez said to his team. Lets just play four minutes at a time.
Fernandezs wisdom paid off in the second half.
It was USFs three-pointshooting and lack of second half turnovers, giving up the ball only three times in the half, that erased the deficit and swung momentum in the Bulls favor.
Even with the Bulls second half play, it took them until the final minutes to gain the upper hand on Syracuse.
Two players that hadnt had much of an impact through the game were key factors in thefinal minute for the Bulls win.
Freshman forward Alisia Jenkins, who has been battlingsickness, saved a Syracuse layup with a well-timed block to hold off Syracuse, but it wasnt long before the Orange found a way to score.
Syracuse rebounded the block and put the ball in the basket to tie the game, butjunior Center Akila McDonald would respond with a layup off of an offensive rebound to put USF ahead for good.
I was prepared to catch itbecause I knew Andrea (Smith) was going to be doubled, so I had my hands ready,McDonald said.
USFs less-than-stellar start is what helped Syracuse to its lead in the first place, going on a 7-0 run to start off the game.
The Bulls kept attacking,responding with three three-pointers in the first fewminutes to tie it up at nine.
The game continued insimilar fashion for most of the first half, with Syracusejumping out to a healthy lead, until it was taken away by a barrage of USF three pointers.
USF has struggled lately inthe closing minutes of the first half, allowing Louisville to go on a10-0 run on Wednesday andSyracuse to go on a 13-0 run.
Fernandez said his team needed to translate itssuccess from the road to the Sun Dome.
Four of USFs sevenlosses have come at home this year, but they were able to turn around the team luckSaturday with a win over theOrange.
We needed a signature win at home, Fernandez said.
After the two surprising wins against the 12th and 21st ranked schools, USF could be ranked on Monday morning.
Are we deserving? I think so, Fernandez said. We just beat two pretty good teams and I think this team has shown that we can play with anybody in the country. USF faces
Rutgers on Tuesday as the Bulls look to improve theirresume for March.