If there is one thing the USF women’s basketball team wants to clean up going into tonight’s game against North Carolina Central (1-1) at the Sun Dome, it is the number of turnovers.
Through the first four games, the Bulls (3-1) averaged 15 turnovers per game, the highest total coming in their 82-53 win against Jacksonville last Wednesday when they turned the ball over 21 times.
The turnover situation has left USF coach Jose Fernandez upset with his team’s play on the floor. Sophomore guard Shavontae Naylor credits the frustration to the team not playing to its potential.
“He wants us playing to our best abilities,” Naylor said. “He feels when we play average teams, we play to their level. He believes we’re up there with the top teams. We’re not an average team.”
As the Bulls try to solve their turnover problems, junior guard Tamara Taylor said the team is also working on communicating on the floor as well as setting up early offense, which is when a team decides to push the ball for a fast break instead of running a play.
“We take too long to get into our plays, but we’re working on them,” she said. “We’ll get better.”
While the Bulls are turning over the ball at an alarming rate, their defense is forcing opponents to commit as many turnovers as them, for an average of 19 turnovers per game.
Since their 78-70 season-opening loss to No. 8 Maryland on Nov. 8, when the Terrapins shot 40 percent from the floor, the Bulls have held each opponent to below 40 percent.
“We work really hard on defense,” senior center Akila McDonald said. “Coach makes sure we contain the dribble. Make sure no one gets easy drives, easy layups. Try to keep everyone out of foul trouble, especially with all the new rules. We’ve been working on a lot of no hands (defense).”
This year, the NCAA is cracking down on new hand-checking rules, banning defensive players from putting a hand or forearm on an opponent.
While some players are not concerned about rule changes, Taylor said it affects her play because she’s used to playing defense aggressively.
“I’m an aggressive player,” Taylor said. “Me not being able to touch is kind of hard because you have to move your feet more.”
The Bulls come into the game after an 87-63 victory Sunday against Bradley on the road, increasing their win streak to three. The Lady Eagles are traveling to Tampa after a 66-55 loss to Coastal Carolina University.
Tipoff begins at 7 p.m.