C-USA Tournament still within reach for Bulls

The USF women’s basketball team managed to split this weekend’s Conference USA games and keep its postseason hopes alive.

With their 63-56 victory Friday at East Carolina and a 74-46 loss Sunday at Charlotte, the Bulls (13-12, 3-9 in C-USA) pulled into a three-way tie for 11th place in the conference. However, the Bulls will need a win against either Saint Louis or Memphis next weekend to advance to the C-USA Tournament March 1-4.

“Coming home 13-12, we have to win one of two to go to Chicago,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “We can finish the regular season 15-12 and go to Chicago and then anything can happen there.”

The Bulls didn’t appear much like a tournament team Sunday as the 49ers (15-10, 7-5) jumped out to an early 9-0 lead, and USF never got closer the rest of the game.

“This reminded me of the Cincinnati game where we got crushed from the beginning,” Fernandez said.

The Bulls suffered through a myriad of problems against the 49ers, not the least of which was an anemic shooting percentage. From the floor USF connected on 16-of-63 shots for a hideous 25.4 percent. The Bulls’ long-range shooting was just as spotty, with USF making 3-of-23 attempts for 13 percent.

USF’s troubles in the first half resulted before the break, the lowest output of the season.

“We scored 15 points in the first half,” Fernandez said. “That’s ridiculous.”

USF had much more luck Friday against East Carolina as the Bulls rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to win by seven.

ECU (5-20, 2-10) was up 36-27 on two free throws by Courtney Willis with 15:28 in the second half when the Bulls made their run. By the time Willis sank one of two free throws with 7:14 remaining USF had ascended to a 47-42 lead.

USF used the free throw shooting of freshmen Tristen Webb and Alana Tanksley to hold off the Pirates in the final minutes. Webb and Tanksley combined to connect on 8-of-10 to ensure the Bulls’ first victory since Jan. 20.

Webb led USF in scoring with 15 points, hitting 11-of-14 free throws.

“I was sick of losing,” said Webb. “We all were and I wanted to do whatever it took to get the job done: free throws, hustling on both ends of the court. Whatever it took, I just wanted to win.”