Bulls capture first conference win
A contrasting slower style of play against the Villanova Wildcats didn’t prevent the women’s basketball team from earning their first Big East Conference win of the year.
After entering the second half with a two-point deficit, the Bulls went on a 21-0 run to pull away from Villanova for a 60-48 victory.
Senior Jessica Dickson recorded her first double-double of the year as she scored 16 points and 12 rebounds to lead USF.
Though Dickson played well, she felt her teammates really helped lead USF to victory.
“I think Rachael (Sheats) really came out and got us energized,” Dickson said. “We knew this was an important game for us to win because it was our first in the Big East.”
Sheats finished the game with 10 points and helped the Bulls hold the Wildcats to only 21 second-half points.
Along with Dickson, the Bulls received major contributions from two unlikely sources.
Forward ChiChi Okpaleke earned her first start of the season, replacing Stephanie Sarosi. Okpaleke responded by recording eight points, eight rebounds and a block to help the Bulls earn their first road victory of the season.
“(Okpaleke) gave us a lot of effort, she went to the glass. I thought she did an excellent job,” coach Jose Fernandez said.
Dickson and Okpaleke helped the Bulls to a 48-33 rebounding advantage over Villanova.
“I think ChiChi is a really good player; she kept us going with her offensive rebounding,” Dickson said. “She definitely brings here energy to the floor.”
Guard Tristen Webb scored seven points, including a momentum changing lay-up and free throw, giving the Bulls a five-point lead and beginning the big run the Bulls wouldn’t surrender.
Jackie Adamshick led the Wildcats with 12 points and seven rebounds, but was held to 5-of-19 shooting from the field.
Prior to the game, Villanova head coach Harry Perretta praised the Bulls, saying USF is the second best team in the conference behind the Connecticut Huskies.
The Bulls usually play their road games in green uniforms but were forced to play in their home white ones because the team misplaced them during the trip to Philadelphia.
USF started the game slowly, shooting 3-of-13 from the field. The Bulls trailed 27-25 at halftime, the second straight game they entered the half trailing.
“I was disappointed that we weren’t going out running and pushing the ball,” Fernandez said. “We weren’t in sync.”
Despite its poor shooting, USF stayed in the game with its stellar half-court defense. Villanova committed three shot-clock violations while shooting 36 percent from the field.
With a tough upcoming schedule, Fernandez knows his team needs to improve.
“If we play like we did tonight against (No. 11) Vanderbilt, we’ll get destroyed,” Fernandez said.