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Bulls falter in second half, lose to No. 7 Rutgers

Published: Monday, January 23, 2012

Updated: Monday, January 23, 2012 02:01

ORACLE PHOTO/BOBBY BISHOP

ORACLE PHOTO/BOBBY BISHOP

Junior guard Inga Orekhova played all 40 minutes of Saturday’s game and scored a team-high 15 points, including four 3-pointers in the loss.

The USF women's basketball team hung tough for its first half against No. 7 Rutgers on Saturday night but couldn't keep pace in the second, falling 72-66 in front of a crowd of 1,022 at the Campus Recreation Center.

With the momentum from knocking off No. 21 DePaul in their last game, USF opened the game on an 11-3 run, courtesy of strong shooting from outside the arc. Tiffany Conner opened the game with a 3-pointer and Inga Orekhova added a pair to give USF a big lead.

Rutgers didn't cave in, though, and began to assert its size, out-rebounding the Bulls 18-9 in the first half. The Scarlet Knights recovered from the early deficit and brought a 29-27 lead into the break with a buzzer-beating layup.

While it was the Bulls (11-9, 3-3) who came out strong to start the night, it was Rutgers (16-3, 5-1) who came out of the locker room in the second half clicking on all cylinders, jumping from 52 percent shooting in the first half to 65.2 percent in the second.

Rutgers forward April Sykes dominated the interior, scoring a game-high 23 points and collecting 10 rebounds  Khadijah Rushdan and Monique Oliver added 16 and 14 points, respectively.

With USF shooters starting the second period 1-of-6, The Scarlet Knights quickly built a double-digit lead that survived most of the half.

The Bulls fought on, with guard Jasmine Wynne scoring all 12 of her points in the second half as the Bulls cut the Rutgers lead into single digits. Orekhova knocked down another pair of 3-pointers and finished with a team high 15 points, having played all 40 minutes.

"I think we have to play hard the whole game, make our shots, our free throws and get rebounds, so that it doesn't come down to the end of the game," Orekhova said.

Conner and Kaneisha Saunders each added 11 points, but it wasn't enough for the Bulls to close the gap and beat a second consecutive ranked opponent.

"I told our kids at the end of the year, ‘There's not an asterisk next to your record saying, "‘They played Georgetown tough, they played Louisville tough, they should have beat the No. 7 team in the country,"'" coach Jose Fernandez said.  "It comes down to wins and losses. We did a good job of closing out against DePaul the other night. We got to start closing out against some of these Top 25 games."

The Bulls will continue their home stand against Seton Hall on Wednesday night in a televised game. USF beat the Pirates by 19 points in New Jersey on Jan. 14.

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