Ladies look to stay in contention

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMEDePaul (record) at USF (11-10,1-8)When: Tonight, 7Where: Sun DomeTV/Radio: 1010 a.m.

The South Florida women’s basketball team (11-10, 1-7) looks to end a three-game losing skid at home against No. 24 DePaul (16-5, 5-3) and get back on a winning track to end the regular season.

If the Bulls don’t start to win more games, they won’t make it to the Big East tournament for the first time in three years.

“We just got to keep fighting,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “We just got a lot of young (players), we just got to continue to improve, get better.”

The tournament accepts the top 12 teams in the conference. The Bulls are in 15th place, a half game in front of last-place Cincinnati (10-11, 1-8).

The last game USF won came in New Jersey against Seton Hall (13-7, 3-5). The victory followed a season-high five-game losing streak after starting the season 10-2.

Seven of the Bulls’ last eight losses came against Big East competition, and now a difficult task lies ahead of them as the rest of the games on their schedule come against conference foes.

“This league will do it to you,” Fernandez said. “If you’re not playing a top 25 team, you’re playing with a top 50 team in the country. That’s why it’s the No. 1 conference in the country.”

The Blue Demons come into the game in seventh place in the conference. An effective offense averages 81 points per game for them – USF averages 66.

According to Fernandez, DePaul’s ability to “create off-dribble penetration” and shoot the three concerns him.

“We are going to have to defend the arc,” Fernandez said. “(We have to) keep people in front of us, not get beat back door. We’re going to have to play great fundamental defense.”

The Blue Demons are 5-2 in their last seven games, including victories against No. 21 Notre Dame (17-5, 5-3) and Marquette (12-9, 4-4).

The beginning of the Bulls’ three-game losing streak came at the hands of Marquette. The Bulls played well against them until Marquette dominated the second half. Junior guard Krystal Ellis torched USF for 30 points, 23 in the second half.

After the Marquette loss, junior guard Shantia Grace said the team needs to keep its head up and not give up in order to make the tournament.

However, lopsided losses tell the history of the Bulls’ last two games. The point total in the two games summed up to 59 – nearly a 30-point average.

USF travels to Marquette for the last game of the season. Marquette leads the series 13-1.