Bethune-Cookman (0-0) at USF (0-0)When: Tonight, 7 p.m.Where: USF Sun DomeTV/Radio: WQYK-AM 1010
Eight months ago, the USF women’s basketball team saw its season end with a loss in the third round of the National Invitation Tournament. Tonight, the Bulls will begin writing the next chapter in their history book as they open the season against the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats.
The Bulls have been very good at opening the season, especially under head coach Jose Fernandez. USF is 5-2 in season openers under Fernandez, and is riding a four-game win streak in openers.
The Bulls will try to shake off an underwhelming performance in their lone exhibition game of the season. The Bulls lost 65-63 to the Miami Sun, looking very sloppy throughout the game. Turning over the ball 27 times, the Bulls were just 18-65 from the field (27.7 percent).
To distance themselves from that performance, the Bulls will rely on a team with several new faces. With the departure of Jessica Dickson, the Bulls’ all-time leading scorer in men’s or women’s basketball, junior guard Shantia Grace will likely be the Bulls’ go-to player.
Grace averaged 14.4 points per game last season, which was second on the team. Furthermore, Grace was second in the Big East conference with 4.7 assists per game.
The Bulls will also look for a greater contribution from senior forward ChiChi Okpaleke. In the Bulls’ Nov. 4 exhibition game, Okpaleke scored nine points and had nine rebounds in just 21 minutes of work.
Against Bethune-Cookman, USF has had considerable success. The Bulls are 7-2 all-time against the Wildcats, with six straight series wins.
However, the Bulls will have some tough match-ups, as the Wildcats have several talented players on their roster.
Senior forward Natasha Ferguson led the Wildcats during their only exhibition game – an 88-70 win over Warner Southern. Ferguson had 26 points while shooting 10-14 from the field, and also had 11 rebounds.
Bethune-Cookman is a team full of new faces. The Wildcats have nine freshmen on their roster. Jalisa Isaac, a freshman guard from New Smyrna Beach, had nine points on 4-of-9 shooting to lead the Wildcats’ freshmen.