Bulls look to stay hot at Memphis

ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

A crowd of green-and-gold clad fans and Rocky D. Bull rally hats won’t be anywhere near the FedEx Forum when the USF women’s basketball team travels to face Memphis (10-9, 4-4) on the road Saturday at 3 p.m. 

USF (16-4, 7-1) is 8-3 away from home this season, traveling more than 7,000 miles to states all over the country and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Junior forward Alisia Jenkins said even though it can be exhausting at times, the jet lag and long trips never seem to affect the team during games. 

“We practice and prepare for the travel so we’re able to stay nimble and alert on the court,” Jenkins said. “Traveling does get boring, even though you get to miss school, which is the fun part.” 

Having won 10 of their last 11 games, the Bulls are getting tougher to beat as the season goes on. Jenkins’ aggressive play on the court is a big part of this success, as she averages a double-double, with 11.8 points and 11 rebounds per game.

Junior guard Courtney Williams has also had a stellar season, with 20 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Even with this success, Williams knows there’s always something that can be improved upon. 

Since USF’s loss to No. 2 UConn two weeks ago, the team has emphasized improvement in its transition defense. Fast break buckets and points off allowed turnovers were less frequent in both the Houston and Tulane games combined at 34 total points than against the Huskies, who picked apart USF’s defensive scheme and came away with 35 points of their own.

“Communication is something we need to stay disciplined on,” Williams said. “Sometimes we just lose track of our defensive assignments. As long as we stay focused on the game plan then we’ll be tough to beat moving forward.” 

Both Williams and Jenkins played the full 40 minutes last week against Tulane and are expected to continue that heavy presence for the rest of the season.

“I’m a role player, so if coach needs me to stay on the floor, I’ll do it, no question,” Jenkins said. “I don’t care how tired I am, I’ll play the full game if it’s necessary.” 

Memphis junior guard Ariel Hearn is the only Memphis player to average over 10 points a game, with 15.4 and 4.1 rebounds. The Tigers also rely heavily on the rebounding force of junior forward Brianna Wright, who averages just fewer than 10 rebounds a game. 

The Bulls and Tigers share a similar playing scheme, each relying heavily on two members of their starting rotation to control the floor. Rebounding is Memphis’ strong suit, but USF will look to continue its dominance on the boards as well, as they have out-rebounded opponents by an average of 7.5 per game, compared to Memphis, who is about even with its competition. 

USF is now in second place in the AAC with its win in the Sun Dome over Tulane this past weekend. Looking toward the final 10 games of the season, USF will only face three teams currently above .500 — with one of those being a rematch with UConn.

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