No. 21 USF women's basketball won in dominant fashion Thursday night, beating Bethune-Cookman 88-39. Even though they won, the Bulls may have suffered a loss to one of their star players.
With 3:04 remaining in the third quarter, senior Kitija Laksa’s fell to the court after unintentional contact with a Bethune-Cookman player.
The game stopped and the crowd was almost completely silent. Laksa was still on the floor, clutching her right knee with one hand and covering her face with the other. Team trainers lifted her off the court and carried her away, presumably into the locker room.
According to USF communications staff, there is no update on Laksa’s injury. Coach Jose Fernandez hopes to have some information Friday morning.
Laksa left the game with 19 points and six rebounds. Joining her in scoring was Laura Ferreira, who also scored 19 points. The Bulls (3-0) beat Bethune-Cookman (2-1) by 49 points, which is the widest margin of victory of the season so far.
“Our kids understand that every game is important,” Fernandez said. “When you don’t have those lapses, when January and February come around, you’re not going to lose a game that you’re not supposed to lose and that’s what we talk about.”
Fernandez said that the veterans on the team help make sure each member is pulling their weight the entire game.
“With this team and the leadership with [Alyssa] Rader, Ferreira and Laksa, they wouldn’t allow it,” he said.
USF led Bethune-Cookman 40-20 at halftime and didn’t let up after that.
“We just play hard for 40 minutes,” Ferreira said. “It doesn’t really matter the score. Whenever we come from the locker room at halftime, we say ‘it’s zero-zero, let’s play the way we play.’ We’re not going to go down to their level just because we’re winning by 50 already.”
Something else that set the Bulls apart in their Thursday night win against the Wildcats was rebounding — USF outrebounded Bethune-Cookman 60-32.
Beatriz Jordao, who was named the AAC Freshman of the Week last week, Shae Leverett, Tamara Henshaw and Alyssa Rader all contributed to the Bulls’ rebound count. Leverett led the way with 13, followed by Jordao and Henshaw who had eight each, then Rader, who had seven rebounds of her own.
“Right now, they’ve been a big strength of ours,” Fernandez said. “Those four post players just continue to do such a great job for us…They’ve just been the strength and focal point of that front line.”
The Bulls had 19 offensive rebounds which set up for 21 second-chance points Thursday night, while limiting the Wildcats to just nine.
USF is finally able to shift its full focus over to Sunday’s matchup against Oklahoma for a 2 p.m. game at the Yuengling Center.