Batman and Robin.
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Starsky and Hutch.
Shantia Grace and Jessica Dickson?
The women’s basketball team will be looking at this dynamic duo to lead the Bulls back to the NCAA Tournament. But can this duo be a part of history in bringing the program its first Big East title?
Early signs this season point in that direction.
Dickson, who scored a game-high 30 points Thursday, brings the entire package to the floor, from scoring to leadership. Dickson showed her entire arsenal against Florida International University, going 6-for-7 from behind the three-point line, blocking shots defensively and driving the ball strong to the basket.
“I got into the gym early shooting some shots and just felt it coming out early,” Dickson said. “I had a relaxing feeling, and I was in the zone and was hitting my shots.”
USF needed a second scoring threat to go along with Dickson, and Grace answered the call. Grace is averaging 18.8 points per game and has become more aggressive with the ball in her hands.
Grace was timid at times in her freshman year, taking over the point guard position after senior Tristen Webb went down for the season with an injury. The experience was key in Grace becoming more of a scoring threat.
“I learned from my mistakes last year, and I realized Jessica would struggle sometimes,” Grace said. “So I wanted to take some of the pressure off of her, and I just want to take advantage of what I can do.”
Dickson definitely appreciates the assistance from Grace.
“It’s a big help for me because when I’m struggling, Shantia picks up the slack,” Dickson said. “And I feel comfortable that the intensity of scoring won’t go down if I’m not on.”
Grace showed her maturity on the court in the second half, scoring 17 of her 26 points in the second 20 minutes of play. Dickson’s shot was off in the second half, and Grace recognized that it was her time to take over the game.
“Shantia does a great job of reading defenses and how she is being played,” coach Jose Fernandez said.
This tandem will be vital for the Bulls to hang with the likes of No. 7 Connecticut and No. 19 Louisville this season. USF will be at home for both games against the Huskies and Cardinals, which gives the Bulls the perfect opportunity to get the upper hand in conference play.
Those are two dates on the calendar that this year’s team will surely keep an eye on. They will be must-win games if the Bulls want to make any noise in conference play or on the national stage.
And it all starts with Grace and Dickson.
Either Dickson or Grace has led the Bulls in scoring in all but one game this season, and this trend will continue. Dickson was difficult to shut down last season by herself, so Grace’s presence makes the Bulls a dangerous team.
Fernandez understands that Grace and Dickson together make other players on the team better. When Grace and Dickson are on, there are very few teams in college basketball that can run with the Bulls.
“When you have good players, you are going to win a lot of games,” Fernandez said. “That’s the bottom line.”