The USF Roundball Classic this weekend turned into the Bulls’ highlight show as the USF women’s basketball team easily swept through Morris Brown and IUPUI to maintain its perfect record heading into next week’s showdown with Florida.
The Bulls (7-0) combined to knock off their two opponents by 104 points while forcing 84 turnovers in the course of the two-day tournament. “It starts with our defense – our full-court pressure,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
“When we get after it and we’re creating turnovers, it’s much easier (because) things are flowing and everyone’s relaxed.”
USF’s first-round match-up Friday with Division I newcomer Morris Brown turned into a historic night as the Bulls toppled numerous records in their 124-54 thrashing of the Wolverines. The 124 points smashed the previous record of 110 set nearly nine years ago to the day (Dec. 1, 1992) against UCF. The 70-point victory was also a chart-topper for the Bulls, surpassing a 63-point demolition of Rollins Nov. 8, 1980. The single-game steal marks fell victim as well. Aided by Aiya Shepard’s school record of 10 steals, USF forced Morris Brown into 48 turnovers, 33 of them steals, to top the old mark of 24, set Jan. 28, 1982 vs. Florida Atlantic.
“I’m happy for them,” Fernandez said of his team’s record-shattering performance. “You feel bad beating a team so bad, because we were on the losing end so many times last year. Not as bad as this, but …” Freshman Alana Tanksley was the game’s high scorer with 33, tying her with four others for seventh all-time on the USF single-game scoring list. Junior Ashley Teets had a career high with her 19 points vs. the Wolverines on 8-of-9 shooting, including her first-ever three-pointer. “She hit her first three-pointer of her career – elementary, middle school, high school,” Fernandez said of Teets. “She went nuts. She was unconscious.” Against IUPUI in the tournament championship it was more of the same, as the Bulls amassed 26 steals while cruising to a 90-56 victory. The Jaguars (2-4) trailed 6-5 in the early going, then a 14-0 USF run inflated the Bulls’ lead to 15 and IUPUI wouldn’t be heard from again.
All-Tournament choice Allison AuBuchon came up big in the first half, notching eight points during a Bulls run that raised the USF lead to 30-12. The margin between the two squads bulged to 25 by the half, 47-22. USF’s first-half dominance was largely in part to the team’s blistering shooting behind the three-point line. The team was dialed in from that distance, stroking 9-of-21 (42.9 percent).
“That’s what we work on every single day – threes,” Shepard said. “It’s three all the time. It’s a habit, just standing behind the arc and shooting threes now.” For the Bulls, Shepard rebounded from a slow start from the floor (0-of-4 in the first four minutes) against Morris Brown to claim Most Valuable Player honors for the weekend. The junior guard tallied 32 points, 17 steals and 10 assists en route to joining Tanklsey and AuBuchon on the All-Tournament team. “I get frustrated, but coach Fernandez, he always tells me to keep shooting those good shots,” Shepard said. “You got to work through that. You just can’t stop shooting because you missed a shot. You just got to keep shooting till you finally make one. That’s how I feel.”
In the tournament opener Friday, IUPUI held a 14-point second-half lead, but Ohio managed to close within one, 76-75 with just a minute left. However, the Jaguars held off the Bobcats, 84-75. Ohio (2-3) responded in the consolation game by defeating Morris Brown (1-5) 95-67, behind seven threes and 30 points from All-Tournament selection Cathy Szall.
- Anthony Gagliano covers women’s basketball and can be reached at email@example.com