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Sayles leads Bulls in blowout

The USF women’s basketball team closed its preseason Sunday with a 116-66 victory over Miami Sun AAU.

Rae Rae Sayles led all players with 23 points and nine rebounds and was one of seven Bulls to score in double figures. USF trailed 12-10 early in the game before Sayles scored six consecutive points to spark a rally, and the Bulls did not trail again.

But while USF outmatched Miami Sun, the team still found flaws in its performance.

“(The game) gave us some really good looks in the first half of what we need to improve on defensively,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “We came out of the locker room in the second half with a lot more defensive pressure and intensity. I didn’t like the way we pressured the basketball early, and we didn’t close out with hands in the first half. That’s why they came out and hit four or five three-pointers. But I thought we ran the floor well and finished well.

“The first half, especially, was good work for us. We played our top-eight rotation in the first half, and that’s what we really wanted to concentrate on, getting our top eight or nine out there in the first 20 or 25 minutes.”

A big part of USF’s dominance came from its ball control. The team committed just 11 turnovers, while forcing 23. The Bulls also out-rebounded Miami Sun, 50-34, and shot 55.6 percent from the field. The Bulls had 35 assists as a team, led by Alana Tanksley with 13.

“I don’t care who you’re playing, and this wasn’t a team without talent, because every one of those kids played Division I basketball — when you turnover the ball as little as we did and control the pace of the game, you are doing pretty well,” Fernandez said. “I think (Miami Sun) was a little out-manned in the second half, but I think we got a good look as far as what we want to do as a team this season.”

The team was playing without forward Ezria Parsons, who was out with an injury, but Andrea Armstrong, Sarah Lochmann and Nalini Miller performed well beneath the basket, an area that gave the teams problems last season. Armstrong was second on the team with 16 points, while Lochmann and Miller added 13 and 11, respectively. Fernandez said an important part of the team’s performance this season will be its ability to score inside and outside the paint, and Lochmann stepped outside to hit three three-pointers in the game.

“I’m very happy (with the team’s play in the paint),” he said. “In Nalini Miller, Andrea Armstrong and Sarah Lochmann, we have three players who can score from the post and give teams some problems. And once we get Ezria Parsons back, we’ll be even deeper in the post.”