Bulls burn Blazers in second half

The USF women’s basketball turned up the heat on UAB in the second half of Sunday’s game to beat the Blazers 72-51 in the Corral.

“Our intensity and our pressure changed completely; it was a good win for us,” USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez said.

“I told them that the first five or six minutes of the half was going to be very, very important,” Fernandez said.

After a tight first half, in which the lead changed 19 times and neither team enjoyed an advantage of more than four points, momentum shifted toward the Bulls bench in the second half. USF outscored UAB 40-20 while shooting 56.7 percent from the field.

Not only did USF’s offense shift into gear, but the Bulls stifled the Blazers with improved defense. The Bulls had eight steals in the second half and only allowed the Blazers to score eight field goals.

“I just told them (at the half) that we weren’t playing hard enough, we weren’t getting out into the passing lanes, we were leaving our post players on an island down there, (and) that there wasn’t enough ball pressure,” Fernandez said. “I told them ‘We are in a position right now, (that) we are not in the conference tournament yet. We win the last four and we have a chance at an NIT berth. I don’t want to be sitting around later asking ‘what if, what if.'”

Freshman guard Rachael Sheats contributed five steals in the second half, bringing her game total to seven. Sheats’ 16 points on the board helped USF overcome UAB.

“Everybody just went out there and started to get really aggressive on defense, and that’s when steals started coming to us,” Sheats said.

Picked to finish dead last in Conference USA, the Bulls have increased their chances of getting into the postseason tournament with a win over the Blazers, while at the same time quieting their critics.

“Our motto all year long has been ‘We’ve got something to prove,’ and now, this time in the season, we are definitely doing it,” Sheats said.

Helping them do it was freshman Jessica Dickson, who finished the game one rebound shy of a double-double. The standout forward posted 19 points to go with nine boards. Dickson could not be accused of hogging the ball, however. The freshman dished out six assists throughout the game.

Spreading the ball around seemed to be a theme for the Bulls against the Blazers; nine players scored, three in double figures. Sophomore Sharon Cambridge scored a career-high 16 points, while pulling down one board and blocking two shots.