Resurgent Bulls take on Wildcats

The USF women’s basketball game against Bethune-Cookman today closely resembles a lay-up. It seems really easy, and they should make it, but there’s always a possibility the Bulls (2-0) could hit the iron.

The Bulls certainly don’t want to slip up against either BCC (0-2) or Saturday’s opponent Savannah State (1-1), after claiming the Boston Invitational this weekend with victories against Boston and SMU. The Bulls’ pair of victories broke an 18-game road losing streak and marked back-to-back wins for the USF women for the first time since the start of the 1999-2000 season.

“It was definitely a great weekend for our program, for the university and for our young kids to get their collegiate basketball career (started) on the road with two quality wins against Boston U and SMU,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “Now, we get to come back and play seven of our next eight at home. We’re really excited to generate enthusiasm on campus and in the community.”

In the Bulls’ first two victories, three players combined for 58 of USF’s 77.5 points per game. Sonia Cotton was the Bulls’ leading scorer against SMU with 24, and both Aiya Shepard and freshman Jen Kline are averaging more than 20 ppg. Kline made her debut memorable by being named Most Valuable Player of the BU Invitational.

“At the prep level and at the AAU level, she was such a prolific scorer,” Fernandez said. “I knew that she was going to do a great job as a standstill shooter and coming off screens shooting the three. The thing that impressed me the most was, as a freshman, how much she wanted the basketball and wanted to make plays. If she does that all year we’re going to be a pretty good basketball club.”

Before the Bulls host Miami and Florida in the coming weeks, they have the home opener against the Wildcats and a match-up with the SSU Tigers. BCC dropped its 2001-02 debut to Western Carolina 65-52 Friday, and Texas-Arlington defeated the Tigers 66-56 Saturday at the UCF Golden Knight Classic.

“When we were doing the schedule last year, with four freshmen and a Division I transfer, (plus) Dione Smith not playing, you have to have some teams on your schedule that will generate some playing time for kids that need experience and need to help us coming off the bench that aren’t going to get it when we play a Florida or a Western Kentucky,” Fernandez said. “We thought that we needed to throw in some games early in our schedule that could boost our confidence and put some wins under our belt. Bethune’s picked in the middle of the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference), they’re 0-2, but anytime you play a state school, it’s going to generate people to the game. I think it’s going to be competitive, to tell you the truth.”

  • Anthony Gagliano covers women’s basketball and can be reached at