USF 51, Louisville 87
The USF women’s basketball team (11-10, 1-7) defeated its second highest ranked opponent last season against then-No. 15 Louisville 74-58. This year, the Cardinals (15-7, 4-5) got revenge 87-51 at home.
Both teams’ execution proved to be opposite from last year’s performances as Louisville jumped out to an early lead, dominated the boards and effectively shot three-pointers. The Bulls struggled in all aspects of the game.
“This is definitely one of the worst losses we’ve had in a long time,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “We haven’t given up (that many points) in a half in a long time.”
The Bulls went down to an early 10-0 deficit within the first two minutes of the game, and it was more than five minutes into the competition before they made their first field goal, making the score 18-6. USF only scored from free throws prior to the basket.
“We finally didn’t let a player get into a groove by making their first two shots,” Louisville coach Jeff Walz said. “We were up in their face and frustrating them. So then, when you miss your first three or four shots, then all of a sudden you start to press and you start to take some quick shots.”
During last year’s game, the Bulls reached a double-digit lead within seven minutes of the tipoff. They made seven of their first 10 three-pointers, which allowed the Bulls to go into the half with a 35-22 lead.
USF was down 46-23 at halftime. It was the most points Louisville scored in the first half this season.
The Bulls shot 28 percent from the field as opposed to the Cardinals’ 55 percent. An inability to battle in the paint kept USF from getting second-chance points as it was out-rebounded 30-14. The Cardinals also posted a 34-8 scoring advantage down low.
“We knew that their post players weren’t as strong as ours,” Louisville junior forward Candyce Bingham said. “Chauntise (Wright) and Keshia (Hines) have been working hard the last couple of days in practice to post up strong and finish strong.”
USF’s struggle continued in the second half. The Bulls played all 12 players as Fernandez looked for a way to slow down Louisville, but nothing worked.
Indomitable rebounding by the Cardinals enabled them to control the rest of the game, as opposed to last year’s 45-44 Bulls’ rebounding advantage. Effective outlet passing led to fast break points, and a 23-point deficit grew to 36.
“We got beat down the floor,” said Fernandez. “They beat us on the glass.”
“We always try to get the ball in the paint,” Walz said. “We pushed the ball extremely well. Candyce Bingham ran the floor and Keshia Hines ran the floor, and we did a much better job of getting it up the court and trying to make things happen.”
The Cardinals finished with a 24-7 assist margin. Many assists came from fast breaks. The Bulls had the advantage last year when they outscored Louisville 11-4 on fast breaks.
The Bulls tried to shoot threes to come back, but the Cardinals answered each of the Bulls’ buckets with one of their own. Louisville shot 4-of-6 from deep in the second half, while USF ended the game shooting 6-of-26 from long range, going 3-of-13 in both halves.
In last year’s matchup, the Bulls were effective from three-point land, shooting 44 percent. They hit 8-of-18 while the Cardinals went 1-of-15. Louisville junior forward Angel McCoughtry made the team’s only three-pointer.
USF junior guard Shantia Grace – the team’s leading scorer – shot 2-of-12 with one three-pointer for nine points. Her performance last time against Louisville led the Bulls to victory. She scored a team-high 20 points, including two buckets from behind the arc.
“We did a really nice job,” Walz said. “Grace and Sepulveda have been averaging 27 points a game combined. Our goal for tonight was to hold them to 22 points, and we held them to 19 combined.”