The USF women’s basketball team must have been feeling the effects of its four-game road trip as it was dealt a pair of setbacks this weekend.
Cincinnati dismantled the Bulls 92-47 Sunday, while USF, even with 29 points from Aiya Shepard, couldn’t overcome Louisville in an 85-72 Cardinals’ victory Friday.
The Bulls (12-8, 2-5 in Conference USA), who haven’t played in the Sun Dome since a loss to DePaul Jan. 13, went 1-3 on their four-game swing, including a victory against then-No. 23 Tulane Jan. 20.
“You’re never satisfied, but we’ve played three of the four best teams in the league,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “We’ve been missing some scoring punch of late. Today was an incredibly tough loss, but we’ve been on the road nine of 13 days and Cincinnati’s lost just three games, all on the road.”
The pair of losses sank the Bulls into a 12th place tie with Southern Miss in C-USA. Only the top 12 teams in the conference will make it to the C-USA Tournament March 1-4 in Chicago. Things won’t get any easier as the Bulls return home this weekend to face TCU, third in the conference at 5-1, and Houston, 4-2 in C-USA play and victors of five straight.
“We have to turn things around, without a doubt,” Fernandez said. “One of our goals was to win enough games to go to the NIT, but right now we need to worry about the next seven games and Chicago.”
The Bulls were aided this weekend by the play of Allison AuBuchon and Sarah Lochmann, both of whom posted back-to-back double-digit games. After Shepard’s 29 vs. the Cardinals (13-7, 5-2), Lochmann and AuBuchon were second and third, respectively, for the Bulls. Lochmann had 17 points and four rebounds, and AuBuchon was right behind her with 15 points and four boards, as well. Unfortunately, the Bulls were handicapped by the Cardinals’ defense on Sonia Cotton as they held USF’s leading scorer to two points.
“Aiya Shepard played like a first-team all-conference player tonight,” Fernandez said. “But when teams key on her, we need others to step up.”
Sunday, Cincinnati heeded Fernandez’s word, limiting Shepard to two points, while five Bearcats registered in double figures and a sixth scored nine points. AuBuchon led the Bulls with 11 points and four blocks, while Lochmann was second in scoring with 10 and topped USF in rebounding with six. Still, without a big contribution from Shepard or Cotton, who scored nine points, the Bulls suffered their worst loss of the season.
“This is the worst loss I’ve been associated with since I’ve been here,” Fernandez said. “It was evident this was our fourth straight game on the road. We had no legs. I’m not making excuses because Cincinnati is a very good ballclub, but they’re not 45 points better than us.”
- Anthony Gagliano covers women’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org