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Break bullies USF

The winter break was tough for the University of South Florida women’s basketball team, with the Bulls managing to win just one of seven games, dropping their overall record to 5-8.

The schedule over the break was the toughest stretch of the year for the Bulls, with four games against last year’s NCAA Tournament teams.

“We went out and put the talented schedule together to give our kids an opportunity to play some of the best teams in the country, so they can learn what it takes to be a post-season team,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “You’ve got to take the whole schedule into perspective (when looking at our record).”

Although the Bulls record isn’t as good as hoped for, the tough non-conference schedule prepared USF for its upcoming Conference USA games.

Dec. 7 vs. Florida State

USF squandered an 11-point second-half lead and lost to the Seminoles 82-78 in the Dodge Shootout at the Sun Dome.

The Bulls lost the game at the free-throw line, as FSU shot 76 percent to USF’s 55 percent. USF committed 32 fouls, which led to 38 FSU free -throw attempts.

Five Bulls scored in double figures, led by Aiya Shepard’s 18 points.

Dec. 19 vs. IUPUI Jaguars

The Bulls were upset on the road by the Jaguars 77-71.

The Bulls struggled in the first half and entered halftime 13 points behind.

USF fought back in the second half and pulled within two points twice in the final 1:25. However, IUPUI secured the victory by going 6-of-8 from the free-throw line in that span.

“A loss like this is unacceptable for our program,” Fernandez said. “We shot the ball well enough offensively, but we could not take pride in our defense and play every possession like it was the last one of the game.”

Shepard, Sonia Cotton and Sarah Lochmann led the Bulls with 15 points each in the loss.

Dec. 21 vs. Indiana Hoosiers

Despite out-shooting and out-rebounding the Hoosiers on the road, the Bulls were unable to produce a victory, falling 67-60 in Bloomington.

Fifteen more free throws and 23 USF turnovers helped IU escape with a victory in a game that went back and forth all night.

The Bulls also struggled from three-point range, connecting on just 5-of-26 attempts.

“I think we played much harder defensively on the road against a Big Ten conference team,” Fernandez said. “We just really have to find a way to win, especially with the schedule we’re playing. Hopefully, we are put in these positions that are going to help us during conference play.”

Cotton led the Bulls with 20 points, and center Jameelah Trimble pulled down a team-high 11 rebounds.

Dec. 28 vs. Connecticut Huskies

The Bulls welcomed the No. 2 team in the nation in front of the largest crowd ever to watch a USF women’s basketball game. The 3,072 fans smashed the previous attendance record of 837.But, despite playing in front of a big home crowd, the Huskies showed why they are a national powerhouse by rolling to a 72-56 victory.

The Bulls battled all night and found themselves down just two points midway through the first half. However, UConn pulled away from that point and went into halftime up 12.

Both teams shot very well from the floor, but the Huskies were too much for the Bulls to handle, even without Preseason Player of the Year candidate Diana Taurasi, who sat out the game with an ankle injury.

“It was definitely a big game for our program in a lot of aspects, especially playing the No. 2 team in the country,” Fernandez said. “It teaches our kids what it takes to be one of the best teams in the country. I was really pleased with our play and intensity level. I’m really happy with how hard our kids played, without a doubt.”

Trimble led the Bulls with one of her best games of the season. She had 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocks. Lochmann was the only other Bull in double figures, scoring a team-high 12 points.

Dec. 30 vs. Boston University

USF picked up its lone win of the winter break by defeating BU 85-69 in the Sun Dome.

After seeing UConn the night before, the Bulls seemed to overpower the visiting Terriers.

The Bulls were down five points midway through the first half, but the offense began to pick up and the Bulls went into halftime up 10.

The Bulls cruised in the second half, pushing their lead to as many as 21 points and holding off any attempt by BU to get back in the game.

“I’ve been worried about this game all year because it sat between UConn and Georgia,” Fernandez said. “It’s a nice team win. We definitely needed this because we dropped one that we shouldn’t have already (this season).”

Four Bulls scored in double figures. Lochmann scored a team-high 17 points, while adding a game-high 11 rebounds. Trimble scored 16 and added nine boards and four blocks. Tristen Webb scored 10 points, and Alana Tanksley chipped in 11.

Jan. 2 vs. Georgia

The Bulls were no match against the Bulldogs, falling 91-44 in the Sun Dome. The 47-point defeat was USF’s worst this season.Georgia opened the game with a 14-0 run and used its height and quickness to take a 24-point halftime lead.

The second half wasn’t any better. USF struggled all night against the Bulldogs’ zone defense, shooting just 25 percent from the field and committing 30 turnovers. The Bulls managed just 19 points in the second half.

Georgia shot 52 percent from the field, including 38 percent from three-point range, and out-rebounded the Bulls 54-32.

Georgia center Kara Braxton showed why she is one of the premier post players in the nation, torching the Bulls for 29 points in just 22 minutes.

Shepard was the only Bull in double figures, scoring 15 points, all in the first half. Trimble added a career-high six blocks in the loss.

Jan. 5 vs. Iowa State

USF was in the hole very quickly against the Cyclones and never recovered, as ISU defeated the Bulls 61-47, keeping USF winless on the road this year.

ISU hit four three-pointers to take a 12-4 lead early in the first half. ISU stretched the lead to 19 before the half by holding the Bulls to 25 percent shooting in the first half, along with a season-low 20 points.

The Bulls fought back in the second half but couldn’t trim ISU’s lead, continuing the Bulls’ road woes.