Though it’s early in the season, the USF women’s basketball team is already being tested by some of the country’s top programs. The Bulls were ousted from the Preseason NIT on Sunday after dropping their game to No. 6 Duke 82-50.
USF advanced to play Duke after defeating Middle Tennessee State on Saturday 70-62. Beating MTSU was a big win for USF as the Blue Raiders have received votes to be ranked in the Top 25 in both the AP Poll and the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll.
“It was a good win for our program,” head coach Jose Fernandez said. “They were No. 25 in Athlon Preseason Poll, and we know they were receiving votes in the major polls.”
The Bulls were led by All-American Jessica Dickson, who racked up 21 points and eight rebounds against MTSU. Nalini Miller also contributed eight points and 11 rebounds in Friday’s game.
After trailing 36-32 at halftime, USF came out hot in the second half, shooting 55 percent from the field.
“We got into some foul trouble, but our bench played big for us in the second half,” Fernandez said.
USF took on the Blue Devils the next day, giving Duke a run for its money. The Bulls got off to a quick lead with a 10-2 run. The USF defense forced Duke to miss six of its first seven shots. The Blue Devils chipped away at the Bulls with a strong defense, and took a 33-21 halftime lead that they would never relinquish.
“Defensively, we did a good job in the first half,” Fernandez said. “In the second half they adjusted. We have to do a better job of answering when the other team goes on a run.”
The Bulls played strong at the net despite being outsized. USF had 24 offensive rebounds. The Bulls never got within 19 in the second half due to a suffocating Blue Devil defense that held USF to 26 percent from the field for the game, and leading scorer Dickson to only 13 points.