Bulls push for postseason

 

While the women’s basketball team’s senior night will honor senior athletes in their last home game Saturday, it won’t be the conclusion to the women basketball team’s season.

USF will participate in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) tournament, and depending on its win-loss record down the stretch, the Bulls can still be considered for a repeat NCAA tournament appearance.

The Bulls may be on the bubble for a March Madness berth, but senior center Akila McDonald said she is letting the team’s confidence carry them through the remaining schedule.

“I feel like we’ve been confident,” McDonald said. “Of course we want to get these key wins for the AAC tournament and make a repeat in the NCAA tournament, but we’re just taking it one game a time. We can’t think about the next before we get the first.”

The 6-foot-4 McDonald has led the Bulls in blocks-per-game since the 2010-11 season. She’s averaging 6.3 points and collecting 5.8 of the team’s conference-leading 44.5 rebounds per game.

USF coach Jose Fernandez said the Bulls are looking to close out the season with consecutive victories, which would move the Bulls from fourth to third place in the conference and help their chances for an NCAA tournament bid.

The Bulls are currently 16-11, on a three-game winning streak, with an 11-5 conference record. Their only losses in the conference have been against No. 1 UConn, No. 3 Louisville and third-place Rutgers.

After playing SMU on Saturday, a team USF defeated 76-62 on Jan. 4, the Bulls will end the regular season at Rutgers in hopes of clinching the third-seed in the AAC tournament with a defeat of the Scarlet Knights.

But on Saturday, McDonald and guard Inga Orekhova will be honored during a pre-game ceremony, which will include their families joining them on the court and framed jerseys as parting gifts.

Orekhova, a transfer from Northeast Oklahoma CC, was rated as the No. 40 recruit in the nation by ESPN.com in 2009. She joined USF during the 2011-2012 season and was that season’s 3-point field goal percentage leader.

The Ukrainian guard scored the 900th point of her career with the Bulls against Temple on Feb. 22 and is currently on pace to be USF’s single season free throw percent record holder (minimum 25 attempts). As of Tuesday, Orekhova is averaging 88.4 percent from the free-throw line and has not missed a free throw since Jan. 12 against Louisville.

But before the team can continue into the post season, they have one final game to play at home on Saturday in the Sun Dome at 7 p.m. against the SMU Mustangs.

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