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Bulls blow lead late in exhibition

The University of South Florida’s women’s basketball team couldn’t hold on to a late second-half lead, as it dropped its only exhibition game of the season to the Premier Players 63-62 Friday at the Corral.

Premier Players guard Wendi Willits sank two free throws with 1.5 seconds left in the game to secure the win.

The Premier Players squad consists of former women’s college basketball players from around the country.

USF held a 13-point lead midway through the second half and an eight-point advantage with 4:40 remaining in the game. But the Bulls’ inability to hit free throws down the stretch proved to be the determinant for the loss.

The Bulls made only 2-of-11 free throws in the second half, and finished shooting just 47 percent from the charity stripe.

“(Free throws) killed us,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “Against good teams, that’s not going to cut it.”

The Bulls also held a 12-point advantage midway through the first half, but the Premier team fought back to tie the game at 32 before halftime.

Despite the loss, Fernandez was content with the way his team played in their first game.

“I was very pleased with our effort and how well we competed,” Fernandez said. “We don’t have our first (regular season) game for about 22 days, so it’s really good for us now to go back to the drawing board and just continue to get better.”

Senior Aiya Shepard had a game-high 17 points to lead the Bulls, and junior center Jameelah Trimble, playing her first game for South Florida, had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Bulls open the regular season Friday Nov. 22 at Miami.

Adam Adkins covers women’s basketball and can be reached at