USF earning national attention

Women’s Basketball coach Jose Fernandez will have a homecoming of sorts when the Bulls take on Texas A&M tonight in the Miami Jam at Florida International University. Fernandez, a 1991 FIU graduate, looks forward to having some familiar faces in the crowd.

“It’s going to be really special,” Fernandez said. “I’ll enjoy seeing a lot of my family and friends watch our game.”

USF started off the season on a good note, defeating Middle Tennessee State on Nov. 12 in the Preseason NIT before falling to No. 6 Duke in the next round.

The Bulls picked up eight points in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, making them No. 40 in the country, which is the highest rank in school history. USF has been picking up notice since earning its first postseason berth in school history last season.

The Bulls, picked to finish eighth in the Conference USA preseason poll, find themselves in an unfamiliar position. Of women’s college basketball programs in Florida, USF is ranked highest in the polls.

“The attention we are getting is really good for our program,” Fernandez said. “I’m more happy for the staff and the players. They have earned it.” USF will continue its trend of playing some of the more competitive teams in the country when the Bulls take on the Aggies.

Texas A&M poses a challenge because the team is difficult to scout for pre-game strategies. The Aggies field a young group of players that includes eight freshmen who have no film for the Bulls to watch. Texas A&M is bringing back only two starters from last year’s team that went 9-19.

“A&M plays some of the top teams in the country, playing in the Big 12 each year,” Fernandez said. “They take on teams with a high RPI like Oklahoma and Texas every year. They’ll be ready to play.”

USF returns its five starters from last year’s squad that went 14-15. The Bulls are led by sophomore All-American candidate Jessica Dickson, who led the nation in scoring last season with 18.6 points per game. USF starting lineup also include sophomores Nalini Miller and Rachel Sheets, junior Ezria Parsons and senior Anedra Gilmore.