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Women’s basketball team feasting on turnovers

After being in the middle of the pack in turnover margin and dead last in the standings in 2000-01, the USF women’s basketball team has had a dramatic reversal of fortune this season.

The Bulls (5-0) were sixth in Conference USA in turnover margin (+ 0.57) last year and finished at the bottom of the conference in eight different statistical categories, in addition to residing in the cellar with their 4-24 mark. This year, buoyed by an up-tempo pressure defense, the Bulls have topped last season’s win total and remain undefeated by taking the ball from the opposition.

In its most recent victory, USF forced nearly twice as many turnovers (27) as they committed (14) Tuesday against Miami.On the season, USF has made Boston, SMU, Bethune-Cookman, Savannah State and Miami turn the ball over 151 times.

Conversely, the Bulls have committed 82 turnovers. During their season-opening five-game span, the Bulls’ turnover margin is an outstanding + 13.8. Take into consideration that Houston led C-USA with a + 5.28 differential last season, and it’s easy to see why the Bulls are head-and-shoulders above last year’s squad.

“Creating points off turnovers is our main goal,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “If we create 25 plus turnovers a night, that will help our offense tremendously.”

The Bulls will again be forced to put on the defensive pressure this weekend as they host the Best Western Roundball Classic. Today, Morris Brown will be USF’s first-round opponent at 7 p.m. The Wolverines (1-3) compete as a Division I Independent, where they finished 8-19 a year ago.

Should the Bulls move past the Wolverines, they will await the winner of today’s 5 p.m. opener between IUPUI and Ohio University. IUPUI’s record stands at 1-3, including a 14-point loss to Miami Nov. 23. The Bulls defeated the Jaguars 70-49 in the two schools’ only prior meeting Dec. 29, 1999. Neither the Wolverines nor the Bobcats (1-2) have ever faced USF before.

Adding the Roundball Classic to their BU Invitational title earlier this season would keep the Bulls undefeated heading into their Dodge Shootout clash with the 18th-ranked Florida Gators.

“We control our own destiny, but we can’t take anyone lightly,” Fernandez said.

“Ohio went into Columbus, in front of 8,000 people, and played Ohio State tough. They beat East Carolina, a C-USA opponent. We need to come ready to play and not look ahead to Florida.”