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Women win, coach Fernandez ‘not pleased’

The women’s basketball team (16-8, 6-4) got a victory at Seton Hall 62-50, but was far from impressive in the game.

“I wasn’t pleased with our performance on defense in the game,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “To be honest, there weren’t many positives for our team that came from this game, but we got the win.”

Seton Hall, which hadn’t scored 60 points in its last five games, took its biggest lead of the game at 25-18 late in the first half. Messina led the Pirates with 14 points, and forward Monique Blake added 11 points.

The importance of the game was lost on the Bulls with their first-half performance. USF shot nine for 28 from the field, including five for 13 from three-point range in the first half.

“We were just going through the motions in the first half,” freshman guard Shantia Grace said. “So we made a decision at halftime that we had to play hard because we needed to win this game.”

Junior guard Jessica Dickson led the Bulls with 20 points, and Grace added 17 points, her highest point total since scoring 19 in a victory over Puerto Rico on Dec. 19.

Junior Nalini Miller, who has struggled making shots inside the paint, came up big in the second half, scoring six of her eight points and finishing with eight rebounds.

“She didn’t play well in the first half,” Fernandez said. “But she stepped up in the second half and gave us six points.”

The Bulls needed a presence in the paint without senior captain forward Ezria Parsons present. Parsons, who brings tenacity to defense and rebounds, was out for this contest after suffering a concussion in a loss to St. John’s on Sunday.

“We were playing shorthanded and the game was closer than we wanted,” Fernandez said.

Leading 28-27 at halftime, the Bulls opened the second half on an 11-6 run to take a 39-33 lead. The Pirates, however, answered with a 6-0 run that included a three-pointer by Brittany Messina to tie the game at 39. Midway through the second half, USF pulled away with a 12-0 run with Miller and Dickson each scoring four points on the run.

“It was big for our team and for Nalini to make her shots because we know she can make those shots,” Grace said. “We keep telling her to take her time and to keep shooting, and she did a good job of that.”

One positive that arose from the women’s performance Wednesday was the lack of turnovers. The Bulls committed only 11 turnovers against the Pirates.

“We held on to the ball better than we have,” Fernandez said. “We played a little better in the second half.”

Fernandez realizes that his squad can’t keep living on the edge against teams that it should beat. If the Bulls plan on making a run in the Big East tournament to make the NCAA tournament, it must improve its play dramatically.

“This was a must-win for this team,” Fernandez said. “If we are going to make it to the NCAA tournament then we need to keep winning games and play better basketball.”