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USF women’s basketball team falls in opening exhibition

The USF women’s basketball team scheduled one exhibition game before beginning the 2007/2008 season. After a messy 65-63 loss to the Miami Sun on Sunday, the Bulls have several kinks to work out before their regular season opener.

From the opening tip, both teams played a sloppy game.

The Bulls had trouble rebounding on both ends of the floor, missing second chances on offense while giving up second chances on defense. However, Miami had many of the same problems.

USF also had problems with turnovers. The Bulls, who averaged 13.5 turnovers per game in 2006/2007, committed 27 turnovers in the exhibition.

“That’s the most turnovers we’ve had in a long time, maybe four or five years,” head coach Jose Fernandez said. “That was the most we’ve put up against anybody, so that’s a big concern.”

Even though the Bulls played sloppily throughout the game, there were a few bright spots. Senior forward ChiChi Okpaleke did a little bit of everything for the Bulls. She dropped eight points, grabbed nine rebounds, and had five steals in 24 minutes.

Junior Jazmine Sepulveda led USF with 13 points in 28 minutes. She also added seven rebounds, three steals, and three assists.

Junior center Jessica Lawson got the start, her first game action as a Bull since transferring from California University in 2005. After sitting out the 2005 season because of NCAA transfer rules, Lawson sat out the 2006 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, torn meniscus, and fractured kneecap in her left knee.

On Sunday, Lawson had one point, six rebounds, and one block in 21 minutes. After the game, Lawson said she felt that nerves had gotten to her.

“I think I was too excited, and I was doing things I don’t normally do,” Lawson said. “I definitely feel like we as a team just didn’t get after it.”

Lawson’s assessment may be correct. USF was 18-65 shooting the ball on the game, including just 8-31 from three-point range.

“We could have relied more on the inside game, but so many players on the team are comfortable shooting from the outside,” Okpaleke said. “We just need to go back to the gym and work.”

“We shot the ball very poorly, and right now we are just trying to find a good rotation.” Fernandez said.

Despite costly turnovers and poor shooting, USF kept the game close – the Bulls held the lead from the opening tip until 10:35 remained in the game.

The teams went back and forth trading baskets for much of the second half, and the Bulls had a chance to tie the game with three seconds left. Lawson took an inbound pass under the basket, but missed two quick shot attempts to end the game.

Even though the Bulls lost, Fernandez likes the direction that the team is heading.

“I think we have a very talented team this season,” Fernandez said. “But it’s putting those pieces together that’s going to be the big thing.”