Just one week ago, the USF women’s basketball team saw a possible win against top-25 ranked DePaul disappear because players were unable to capitalize at the free-throw line down the stretch. And though USF coach Jose Fernandez said he hates to blame a loss on one aspect of a game, it was the same miscues that resulted in a 69-59 loss to the Tigers in Memphis on Sunday. The loss stopped the Bulls from building on their first conference win of the season, 68-51 against Saint Louis on Friday.
“Especially when you go on the road, you can’t miss free throws,” Fernandez said. “It’s just concentration and putting in extra time and shooting extra shots.
“We’re in the middle of conference play and before DePaul, we were shooting 70 percent from the line. This is the second conference game that if we make free throws, we put ourselves in a position to win.”
The Bulls (8-10, 1-4 C-USA) did have other problems against the Tigers. The team allowed 18 offensive rebounds in the game, giving Memphis a 50-39 advantage on the boards. Also, the Tigers’ bench contributed 28 points, led by Victoria Crawford’s 16, compared to the Bulls’ nine.
“A lot of those (offensive rebounds) came down the stretch,” Fernandez said. “(And) they had people step up coming off the bench.”
The loss overshadowed an impressive game from freshman center Nalini Miller who posted a game-high 22 points with 13 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Though Miller posted her team-leading seventh double-double of the season, her own inability to capitalize at the free-throw line — connecting on just 2 of 9 attempts in the game — put a damper on her performance.
But the Bulls didn’t have much success away from the foul line, either. Aside from Miller, who hit 10 of 15 shots, and fellow freshman Rachael Sheats, who went 6 of 8 from the floor and was the only other Bull in double figures with 13 points, everyone else seemed to struggle.
The team’s leading scorer, freshman Jessica Dickson, made just 4 of 15 attempts, while fellow starter Ezria Parsons made just 1 of 11 shots. The Bulls shot 36.5 percent from the field, including 12.5 percent from 3-point range.
Friday’s victory against Saint Louis snapped a seven-game C-USA losing streak dating back to last season and also snapped a season-high four-game losing streak this year.
Sheats led the way for the Bulls on Friday with a career-high 21 points, going 10 of 15 from the field.
Dickson was the only other player to score in double figures for the Bulls, chipping in 15 points, while Parsons contributed eight points and eight rebounds and Anedra Gilmore added seven points and seven assists.
The game was a breakout of sorts for Sheats, who recently moved into the starting lineup for the Bulls, and Fernandez said it was just a matter of time before the freshman elevated her game.
“All she needed was the experience,” Fernandez said. “Her offensive game is definitely now catching up to how well she plays on defense.”
The Bulls remain at the bottom of C-USA six games into league play and must deal with a pair of top-25 programs at home the next two games. But Fernandez still believes the Bulls are more than capable enough to put together a run to climb out of the conference cellar.
“We win (Sunday’s) game and we would have been in seventh place in the league,” Fernandez said. “We’re still in the hunt, and we haven’t played Southern Miss, UAB and Tulane (which are all at the bottom of the conference). We still have a very good opportunity to get back in this league race.”