With starting center Nalini Miller on the bench, the USF women’s basketball team needed someone to step up versus Cincinnati on Sunday.
Rachael Sheats, come on down.
Sheats, a sophomore, put up a career-high 26 points on 12 of 14 shooting as the Bulls ripped Cincinnati 74-56 at the Sun Dome. The win capped a weekend conference sweep for USF (12-4, 2-0 C-USA), who beat Louisville 67-59 on Friday.
Sheats, who was perfect from the field in the first half, is a player known for her defensive prowess, and averages 9.1 points per game. But in Sunday’s victory, she morphed into a slasher, scoring with an array of jump shots and layups.
“It didn’t surprise me,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “I think she did a very good job attacking the basket. I was very pleased with her play.”
Fernandez said doing different things, like putting leading scorer Jessica Dickson in the low post, drew attention from defenders and opened up the lane. Dickson finished with 21 points.
Miller, who suffered a strained left hamstring during USF’s victory over Louisville, is the team’s leading shot blocker and third-leading scorer. She will be out indefinitely.
“With the likes of Nalini Miller and Ezria Parsons out, the team knows we have to step it up,” Fernandez said.
Parsons, the team’s leading rebounder, sustained a concussion during the game versus Louisville, but still played against Cincinnati. She also will be out indefinitely.
The absence of Miller and Parsons didn’t seem to bother the Bulls against Cincinnati, as USF led the Bearcats by as much as 29 in the second half.
The win was the Bulls’ seventh in eight games, and at 12-4, USF is off to the second-best start in school history.
Sitting atop Conference USA with a 2-0 record, the Bulls next travel to face TCU and then Houston, each of whom are 2-0 in conference play as well.
“Every team in this league is dangerous,” Fernandez said. “Night in, night out, you’re going to play a good team. Our kids know what is at stake every time they play.”