When: Sat., 2 p.m.Where: Hartford Civic Center, Hartford, Conn.TV/Radio: Catch 47/860 AM
For the women’s basketball team to have a legitimate chance of earning its second consecutive NCAA Tournament berth, the Bulls must win their opening round match against Seton Hall in the Big East Conference Tournament.
USF is listed as one of the final four teams to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, according to ESPN.com, while Seton Hall is among the teams on the outside looking in.
The Bulls defeated Seton Hall 61-50 on Monday, but if the Pirates are able to win on a neutral court, USF will likely be eliminated from NCAA Tournament contention.
“The bottom line is, for us to go to the NCAA Tournament, we have to win on Saturday,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “There’s no other way you can cut it. The team knows that.”
During conference tournament play, the Bulls own an all-time record of 3-22 and fell in the first round of last year’s Big East Tournament 73-66 to Notre Dame, a team USF defeated twice during the regular season this year and last year.
“The big thing is to keep your focus on Seton Hall and not think about Connecticut in the second round,” Fernandez said. “Just keeping the players motivated is (the biggest challenge.)”
USF won against the Pirates on Monday, but will need to perform better Saturday if they expect to claim another victory. The Bulls shot just 32.8 percent from the field, with Jessica Dickson and Shantia Grace, the teams’ two leading scorers, combined for 24 points in 5-of-26 shooting from the field.Seton Hall out rebounded the Bulls 52-45, an achievement driven by a tremendous 18- point, 19-rebound effort from forward Monique Blake.
All season, the Bulls have tried to force opponents into an up-tempo game, but the Pirates were able to control the pace of the game to the slowdown style they are accustomed to. Entering Monday’s contest, Seton Hall was 17-0 when holding opponents to 60 points or fewer.
“We’d like the game to be faster paced, but Seton Hall plays very solid defense,” Fernandez said. “Shantia and Jessica didn’t have the offensive game we’ve come to expect, but they’ll definitely have to step up and score some points for us Saturday.”
The Bulls rank fourth in the Big East with 73.1 points per game.
Keep an eye on: Bulls forward Nalini Miller. The center recorded 15 points, four blocks and two steals. Miller played only 21 minutes because of foul trouble, but was labeled the difference in the game by Seton Hall coach Phyllis Mangina.