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Upsetting victory

USF 74 No. 15 Louisville 58

Despite recording the biggest win this season for the women’s basketball team, coach Jose Fernandez wasn’t happy.

The Bulls (14-4, 4-1) took command of the game early and never relented during their 74-58 victory over No. 15 Louisville.

Fernandez was proud of his team’s effort but was frustrated at the lack of interest his program draws on the USF campus.

“It just fathoms me that you have a basketball team that has gone to two NITs, an NCAA Tournament … and you’ve got (expletive) 800 people in the stands,” Fernandez said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. … Everybody will become a fan when we go to the NCAA Tournament.”

The attendance of Tuesday night’s game was 845.

He also expressed his frustration with the Sun Dome’s scoreboard. The game’s timer malfunctioned numerous times, causing delays on four different occasions.

“We’ve got multi-million dollar scoreboards, and they don’t work,” Fernandez said. “That’s another thing I don’t understand.”

When the clocks were working, the Bulls dominated the Cardinals.

Shantia Grace recorded her first double-double of the season after scoring 20 points with 11 assists, leading USF to its first victory over a nationally ranked opponent this season.

“She’s hard to contain because she’s so explosive,” Louisville coach Tom Collen said. “She can beat anyone off the dribble anytime she wants. (Grace) is the most explosive scoring point guard in (the Big East) conference.”

Grace was coming off the worst two-game stretch of her career. In USF’s games against Notre Dame and Rutgers, Grace shot 2-20 from the field, scoring only eight points.

“I just had my mind more focused on taking care of the ball, scoring and setting the tempo of the game,” Grace said. “I haven’t been scoring lately, but hitting my first shot I just knew it was going to be an OK game.”

USF’s usual leading scorer, Jessica Dickson, registered 15 points in the first half but failed to score again, shooting 0-of-7 from the field after the break. Despite her struggles, the Bulls were still able to outscore Louisville 39-36 in the second half.

Grace and Nalini Miller carried the Bulls’ offense the rest of the way, with 15 and 10 points in the second half, respectively, to preserve their second-ever victory over Louisville.

Miller became the fifth player in team history to collect more than 700 rebounds in a career after she grabbed a season-high 16 on the night.

“The team as a whole stepped up tonight, it wasn’t just one or two players,” Dickson said. “That shows everyone on the team played well against a tough team.”

Big East leading scorer Angel McCoughtry led the Cardinals with 21 points and 11 rebounds, giving her 13 double-doubles and matching her averages on the season.

McCoughtry is the only player in the Big East averaging a double-double per game. The victory puts USF in a three-way tie for second place in the Big East, trailing Connecticut by just one game.

Collen feels that with the Bulls’ victory tonight and a win over Notre Dame in their last outing, USF will be nationally ranked when next week’s polls come out.

“I think (the Bulls) clearly deserve to be in the Top 25,” Collen said. “That’s really where they deserve to be right now.”

Entering the contest, the Bulls had compiled a record of 4-17 against opponents ranked in either the Associated Press or the ESPN/USA Today polls in Fernandez’s seven-year tenure.

Although the Bulls have a 4-1 conference record, USF’s attendance still lags far behind the rest of the Big East.

Fernandez offered a suggestion to spark fans’ interest.

“Maybe we should do American Idol tryouts at halftime,” he said.