Bulls aim for second straight

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMEUSF (12-10, 2-7) at Cincinnati (10-12, 1-9)When: Sat., 2 p.m.Where: Fifth Third ArenaTV/Radio: Catch 47/1010AM

The USF women’s basketball team (12-10, 2-7) needs wins to make the Big East Conference Tournament for the third time in a row, and the Cincinnati Bearcats (10-12, 1-9) stand next in line to face them.

The tournament allows the top 12 teams to compete for the conference championship. The Bulls sit at the 13th position; the Bearcats are last at 16th.

However, even the worst teams in the Big East put up a fight.

USF coach Jose Fernandez said the Big East is the best conference in the country.

“If you’re not playing a top 25 team, you’re playing with a top 50 team in the country,” he said.

Seven conference games remain on the schedule, and the Bulls need to win six to get to .500 for the season.

“I told the team .500 makes the tournament in (the Big East),” Fernandez said.

A blown Bulls’ season grew close to reality after they lost seven out of their last eight games, including consecutive blowout losses against No. 1 Connecticut (21-1,8-1) and Louisville (15-7,4-5), in which USF lost by a combined 59 points. However, an uplifting 78-73 win against No. 25 DePaul (16-6,5-4) breathed new life into the Bulls.

Fernandez said his team needed to find a solution if it wished to turn things around, and it did: tenacity.

“We played with much more energy and desire (against DePaul),” Fernandez said. “We played like it meant something, where we didn’t play at Louisville like it meant something.”

The win moved the Bulls from 15th to 13th in the conference. The last time USF defeated a ranked team was in a victory over No. 15 Louisville last season.

“The win gives us confidence,” junior guard Shantia Grace said.

Grace scored a career-high 35 points in the matchup. Junior guard Jazmine Sepulveda added her own career-high 22 points.

The Bulls need Grace and Sepulveda to continue scoring. Eight times this year USF scored 60 points or less. The Bulls lost those eight games.

Cincinnati is allowing 66 points per game this season.