Sizing up a powerhouse

Coach Jose Fernandez and the USF women’s basketball team have never beaten a Top-10 team, and though others might not, Fernandez sees a chance to do it on the road tonight.

“We have a great opportunity ahead of us,” said Fernandez about playing No. 8 UCONN at Gampel Pavilion in Hartford, Connecticut. “A lot of people outside our program aren’t giving us a chance to beat them. They haven’t lost to an unranked opponent in 10 years. We’re going to come ready to play and we’re going to play hard.”

It’s the second time early in the season USF will play an opponent ranked in the Top 10. The Bulls dropped their game against Duke in the Preseason NIT 80-52. The highest-ranked opponent USF has defeated was No. 18 TCU, a victory USF clinched in double overtime.

“We can play with Top-25 teams, we just have to play every possession,” Fernandez said.

The Bulls have faced UCONN once before, during the 2002-03 season. The Huskies entered the Sun Dome ranked No. 2 and left with a 72-56 victory. Two players on the roster, Tristen Webb and Alana Tanksley, played significant roles in that game. Webb had six points and eight rebounds against the Huskies, tying her season high. Tanksley posted six points and five rebounds.

The Huskies have won three consecutive national titles and made five consecutive Final Four appearances. This is the first season UCONN will be without two-time Honda Player of the Year and Big East Player of the Year Diana Taurasi. The Huskies have won 52 straight games at home.

In the 2002-03 season, the Bulls played No. 12 Georgia, No. 18 TCU, Florida and Florida State. The next season USF had one of its best recruiting classes, which included Jessica Dickson, Nalini Miller and Rachael Sheats.

“It gives us great credibility for the program we’re trying to build,” Fernandez said. “This season we’ve played the Sun Belt Champ, we’ve played the MAC Champ, (tonight) we play the Big East Champ; so it does a lot for our program to play the best.”