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No. 1 Huskies too much for Bulls

USF 48, Connecticut 71

The South Florida women’s basketball team (11-9, 1-6) had no answer for Connecticut (20-0, 7-0) or its freshman forward Maya Moore in a road game where they were outshot, outmatched and physically dominated in a 71-48 loss. The game was out of reach by halftime.

The game was the first time USF ever played a No.1 team, and before the game started, Moore was dunking during warm-ups.

“She’s the real deal,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “She’s really, really good. Every time she was open, she knocked down uncontested shots.”

She went 5-of-5 in the first half, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc for 13 first-half points. She finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

“You can’t stop a player like Maya Moore,” USF Director of Basketball Operations Andy Christensen said.

“She is a player that can revolutionize the game like Candace Parker or Diana Taurasi,” Rutgers women’s basketball coach C. Vivian Stringer said in a report in the South Bend Tribune. “She is a player who can carry a team, except that in Connecticut’s case she doesn’t have to. I don’t see any other player on the horizon who can dominate like that.”

Moore wasn’t the only player performing well. The team played well as a whole.

The defense held South Florida to 8-24 shooting in the first half, holding the Bulls to 22 points. The Huskies had 44 points.

The Bulls had only one bucket in the paint in the first half. They were dominated down low as the Bulls struggled to get an offensive rebound.

“There is a reason why UConn is the No. 1 team in the country,” Christensen said. “They just don’t take a possession off on either end. They execute offensively very well, and on the other end defensively they are all over the place.”

The second half started with Moore knocking down USF junior forward Brittany Denson, a display of how Connecticut overpowered the Bulls. Moore made a basket and was fouled on the play. She made the free throw, converting a three-point play.

Moore had help in the scoring department. Senior guard Renee Montgomery had 21 points. She and Moore were both benched significantly before the end of the second half, a common move by coaches to protect their players from injury when a game is out of reach.

“We’re going to learn a lot about each other tonight – I think character-wise and intensity-wise on how we come out and how we compete,” Fernandez said before the game. “That is what I am concerned about.”

USF junior guard Shantia Grace – the team’s leading scorer – is the only player for the Bulls who scored in double digits, 15 points.

The Bulls shot under 30 percent from the field.

“They shot 50 shots, we shot 57,” according to Fernandez. “We went six-of-16 from the free-throw line. You can’t do that against these caliber teams.”

Fernandez said his team was down 22 points in the first half. The Bulls lost by 23 points. “In the second half, we played them just about even.