USF finds a chink in the armor

The Bulls couldn’t recover from poor shooting despite winning two of their three games over the weekend. USF led in every statistical category except for the one that counts: the score. The USF women’s basketball team dropped its game to Eastern Michigan in the championship round of the Best Western Roundball Classic 57-49.

The tale of the game was USF’s shooting. The Bulls shot an uncharacteristic 28 percent from the field, while allowing the Eagles to shoot 46 percent.

“You can’t shoot less than 28 percent from the field against anybody, especially a Top-25 team, and expect to win a game,” coach Jose Fernandez said.

The Bulls took 23 more shots than Eastern Michigan. USF has shot over 50 percent in the last two games, but came out flat against the Eagles. Eastern Michigan set the tone from the start, jumping out to a 25-13 lead in the first half. The Eagles took a 34-19 score into halftime.

In the second half USF cut the lead to five points with nine minutes remaining and looked primed to go on a game-changing run. Eastern Michigan, who won the Mid-American Conference last season, halted the momentum thanks to accurate shooting from tournament MVP Ryan Coleman. Coleman picked up 15 points and seven boards against the Bulls. Sophomore Jessica Dickson kept it close for the Bulls, scoring 21 points in the loss.

“We couldn’t get anything to drop for us tonight,” Dickson said.

Nalini Miller picked up the only double-double in the game with 10 points and 11 rebounds. She averaged 16.5 points a game and 7.5 rebounds to earn her all-tournament honors.

“They played good defense, but we just couldn’t get them to drop,” Miller said regarding Eastern Michigan.

The Bulls had been on a four-game winning streak thanks to wins over Army and St. Francis on Wednesday and Saturday, respectively. USF defeated Army in its home opener Wednesday.

The Bulls ran out to a 12-3 lead against the Black Knights and never looked back.

“It was our home opener and at times we did a pretty good job defensively. But we didn’t defend the three-point shot very well tonight and we didn’t defend the three-point line,” Fernandez said. “At times we didn’t close out with hands. (Army’s) Jen Hansen had a very good game and they ran her off of staggers all night. We have to go back and work on that kind of stuff because that’s the kind of stuff we’re going to have to defend when conference play starts.”

USF shot a scorching 57.6 percent from the field against Army, thanks to a strong effort from Miller, who had 16 points and eight rebounds against the Black Knights.

USF hosted St. Francis in the first round of the Roundball Classic on Saturday. The Bulls embarrassed the Terriers, winning the game 94-53, their largest margin of victory since a 124-54 blowout of Morris Brown University in 2001.

USF will have to regroup quickly as they face three-time national champion and future Big East rival Connecticut on Wednesday in Hartford.

“Nothing changes,” Fernandez said. “We’ll prepare for the Huskies like we prepare for everybody else. We just need to put the ball in the basket.”