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Bulls leave New York empty-handed

The USF women’s basketball team went to Queens, N.Y. looking to earn its first Big East Conference win of the season. Instead, the St. John’s Red Storm handed the Bulls a 63-51 loss and an 0-2 record in the Big East.

The Bulls (10-5, 0-2) started off slow and could not recover from an early deficit.

“We were playing uphill, I thought, the whole game,” head coach Jose Fernandez said. “We came out of the gate and we shot 0 for 7.”

USF did not hit its first field goal until nearly seven minutes into the game. During that time St. John’s went on a 14-2 run, giving the Red Storm an early lead. The Bulls managed to close the gap to six points midway through the first-half before the Red Storm regained its early game form.

“We tried to establish (our post players) early on, and we went inside, but we were missing shots,” Fernandez said. “We were missing bunnies. We were missing two- or three-foot bunnies in the lane.”

The Bulls trailed 32-20 at halftime, and St. John’s managed to pull further ahead during the second period. USF trailed by as many as 16 points in the second half.

Led by junior guard Shantia Grace, the Bulls made a furious comeback attempt late in the game. Grace – who scored 16 points on the night – led USF on a 19-7 run that cut the St. John’s lead to four points. With around five minutes left in the game, the Bulls trailed 48-44.

“In the second half, from the 10-minute mark down to the four-minute mark we went on that run and cut (the lead) all the way down to four,” Fernandez said.

Despite the comeback attempt, the Bulls could not manage to take an advantage. USF never held a lead and got no closer than a 53-49 deficit with two minutes left in the game. During the final two minutes, USF was outscored 10-2.

The Red Storm saw several players step up during the game. Junior guard Monique McLean had a game-high 19 points for the Red Storm. Freshman guard Sky Lindsay added 14 points.

Despite the late run, Fernandez realizes what his team needs to work on.

“We’ve got to make shots,” Fernandez said. “We’re out there missing wide open shots. I mean, there’s no excuse for it. None whatsoever.”

With an 0-2 mark in conference play, USF will need to right its ship quickly if it intends to keep its postseason hopes alive in the competitive Big East. USF plays its next two games at home, and Fernandez is the first to admit that they are important.

“These (next) two home games are crucial,” Fernandez said. “If you have to play uphill in this league you’re in a lot of trouble. Starting 0-2 with 14 games left, we know that (the rest of the season) is going to be very, very difficult.”