More ups than downs for Bulls during break

As the women’s basketball team prepares to start their conference season, they have plenty to be thankful for following the winter break. The Bulls went 6-1 to improve to 11-4 on the season.

After rattling off a season-high five-game winning streak, though, the Bulls started 2005 on the wrong foot. USF took on the Florida Gators on Jan. 2 in Gainesville, losing 58-50. The Bulls have not won in Gainesville since 1977 and have not taken a game from Florida in 14 straight attempts, giving them an all-time record of 4-36 against the in-state foes.

The Bulls seemed to have finally gotten a hold on Florida, but lost the lead late in the game after claiming it for nearly 35 minutes.

A scrappy Gator team chipped away at the Bulls’ nine-point lead after sophomore Jessica Dickson drained a three pointer early in the second half.

USF stayed within five but frequently had to foul the Gators late in the game, sending Florida to the free-throw line, where they were 15 for 18. The Gators were able to get several second chances on shots, out-rebounding USF 48-34.

“Something we’ve stressed this week is getting rebounds and doing a much better job against zone defenses,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.

Aside from losing to the Gators the Bulls held their own during the break. USF flexed its defensive muscles against its rivals, winning five straight at home while holding all opponents to under 50 points. USF ranks No. 23 in the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to a mere 52.9 points a game.

“We pride ourselves on our defense,” Fernandez said. “We’re a quick team on the perimeter and we take care of the basketball.”

The Bulls opened their conference season at home Friday when they took on Louisville and Sunday, when they faced Cincinnati in the annual Dodge Shootout.

Prior to this weekend’s games, USF held a record of 7-1 at home, with its only loss coming on Nov. 28 against Eastern Michigan in the Best Western Roundball Classic.

“It’s important to win at home,” Fernandez said. “If you lose at home then you can lose anywhere.”

This will be the last opportunity for USF to get a win against Louisville as both teams vie in C-USA. The Bulls have never beaten the Cardinals in 17 attempts.

“The best game played in Conference USA is going to happen here Friday night,” Fernandez said.