Bulls suffer fifth straight loss

Providence 61, USF 49

The 2007-2008 women’s basketball team has seen a season full of promise turn into a major disappointment. For both the players and head coach Jose Fernandez, this season is nothing like what they hoped for.

“I had a lot of high expectations for this team at the beginning of the year,” Fernandez said. “You know, this is probably as disappointed as I’ve ever been here. It’s very, very disappointing.”

The let down continued Tuesday night, as USF was no match for the Providence Friars, who handed the Bulls a 61-49 loss at the Sun Dome.

The Bulls lost their best player – Shantia Grace – to a sprained right ankle seven minutes into the game. Then, they proceeded to lose their fifth straight game to a team that was previously winless in the Big East.

“I don’t know how long (Grace) will be out,” Fernandez said. “(She) went down with an ankle injury … I told our guys that you played without Shantia Grace for 35 minutes tonight, but you’re down at home to a team that hasn’t made the Big East tournament in two years.”

Junior guard Jazmine Sepulveda thinks the team needed to fill the void left by Grace’s absence.

“I just feel like some of us needed to step up at that time when she fell out,” Sepulveda said. “We needed more guard play, and we really needed to step up. We just really didn’t have any energy out there.”

The Bulls (10-7, 0-4) have lost four straight Big East games for the first time since joining the conference in 2005. To make matters worse, the Bulls’ five-game losing streak is the team’s longest since the 2002-2003 season, when they endured a nine-game winless drought.

Once again the Bulls fell behind early. USF made three of its first 15 field goals en route to shooting 28.8 percent from the field on the night. The Bulls held the lead once during the game – 3-2 with just over 17 minutes remaining in the first half.

For the rest of the first half, The Friars (11-5, 1-2) shot 56.5 percent from the field to take a 15-point lead heading into the break.

Fernandez was disappointed in the team’s play, and was apologetic for its performance.

“I’m disappointed for our fans, I’m disappointed for the University, and I’m disappointed for the community for us to put that kind of product onto the floor,” Fernandez said.

Junior center Jessica Lawson – who had 11 points and four rebounds coming off the bench – echoed her coach’s sentiment.

“There’s definitely a lot of disappointment,” Lawson said. “We’re disappointed in ourselves and disappointed in our team. It’s like we know we’re better, and we’re trying to push through this wall. But we’re not there yet.”

The Bulls managed to cut the Providence lead to nine points late in the second half, but could not manage to get any closer.

“Our play is going to have to change,” Fernandez said. “We’re just not making plays. We’re not finishing our lay-ups. We’re not shooting well from the free-throw line. In the end, it’s very disappointing. At the end of the day, it’s all about production, and I’m very disappointed in some of our guys right now.”

Fernandez feels like the students and fans of USF women’s basketball should be seeing better production from his team.

“The University doesn’t deserve this and the athletic department doesn’t deserve this,” Fernandez said. “Not with where this program is at.”