No. 11 DePaul (7-0) at USF (5-1)
When: Tonight, 7
Where: Sun Dome
TV/Radio: Brighthouse 47, WTBN 570
The story: The women’s basketball team plays an early season conference game tonight against another ranked opponent – No. 11 DePaul. This will be USF’s second of three straight games against a ranked team. Facing No. 7 North Carolina Friday, the Bulls were outmanned against the deep Tar Heels and lost their first game of the season 71-47.
“I thought we were well prepared for North Carolina,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well. North Carolina was more athletic at all spots.”
Against the Tar Heels, USF turned the ball over 19 times – the most this season. UNC played twice as many players at 14 than the Bulls did. USF’s team depth will continue to be an issue for Fernandez this season.
“We’re going through a transition,” Fernandez said. “(We’re) playing without a couple of kids and changing a few things up offensively and defensively.”
The Bulls will need to transition quickly, as they face the Blue Demons tonight and No. 13 Michigan State on Saturday, both at home.
“I think we have a good team, that’s why I went out and scheduled the type of schedule we have,” Fernandez said. “Good thing about these next two games is they’re at home. I think we take pride in playing at home and protecting home court.”
There is definitely excitement around DePaul’s women’s basketball program. At No. 11 in the Associated Press poll, this is the highest ranking the Blue Demons have had in school history. Much of DePaul’s success has to do with the play of Khara Smith, a 6-foot-2 power forward who averages 17.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
Keep an eye on: Shantia Grace and Jessica Jackson. Fernandez is counting on the two new guards to make an immediate impact this season. Grace is averaging eight points per game as the starting point guard, and she leads the team in assists with 28. Coming off the bench, Jackson is averaging six points a game.
Even though the two freshmen lack experience, Fernandez is still confident in their abilities.
“Without a doubt, I wouldn’t have signed them or recruited them if I didn’t think they would help in the Big East,” Fernandez said.
– Tony Marquis