The crowd of 1,276 attendees watching USF’s 91-68 conference victory against Memphis in the barren Sun Dome included one special person for senior Inga Orekhova – her mother, former European basketball player, Svetlana Orekhova.
Svetlana saw her daughter score 33 points with seven assists – a career-high for the guard.
“I don’t want to get all emotional right now,” Orekhova said during the post-game interview. “It’s a great feeling to know my mom is up there watching me.”
Orekhova provided the first score of the game, a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. It was the first of six 3-pointers through the night.
The Bulls (16-11, 11-5) scored early on as Memphis limited what has been a spark for USF this season in sophomore Courtney Williams, who scored only four points. Orekhova had the hot hand, though, and didn’t let up, finishing the first half with 23 points.
In a game that featured five tied scores, the Bulls were able to pull away late in the first period, sharing the ball and creating open shots outside the pant. USF finished the night with 21 assists – seven more than its season average; conference leader UConn averages 22.
It was USF’s scoring effort that allowed them to sustain a lead throughout the second half, shooting 63 percent from the field after halftime.
“I think the way we shot the ball tonight, we are a good basketball team when the ball goes through the back (of the rim),” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
USF’s shooting accuracy helped establish a 15-point lead at the half, which began with two free throws from Orekhova. After sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins followed with a layup and junior guard Tamara Taylor with a 3-pointer, Orekhova added another 3-pointer of her own with one second left in the first half.
In addition to Orekhova’s scoring effort, she found open teammates as she orchestrated the Bulls’ offense during the second half.
Four of her seven assists came during the final 20 minutes of the game, which included no-look passes and full court lobs on transition offense.
Jenkins also had a career night, scoring 21 points and 18 rebounds. Her double-double helped the team create and finish offensive drives from the rebounds accumulated.
USF’s latest conference win helps its chances not only when trying to impress the selection committee in charge of picking teams to play in the NCAA tournaments, but also when seeding teams for the American Athletic Conference (AAC) tournament.
USF is currently ranked fourth in the AAC, and can slide into the third place position, held by Rutgers, by winning out the rest of the season.
“Monday night (versus Rutgers) is irrelevant if we can’t take care of business Saturday night at home (versus SMU),” Fernandez said.
As for Orekhova, she will have her final chance to play at home on senior night in her mother’s presence Saturday at 7 p.m.