Grace needs help

Rutgers 71, USF 50

Shantia Grace, junior guard on the South Florida women’s basketball team (12-12, 2-9), scored 30 points Saturday at the Sun Dome in front of 2,151 fans during the “Women’s Hoop for the Cure” game – a game intended to raise awareness about breast cancer. The game also raised awareness about the Bulls’ lack of depth.

Grace scored 60 percent of the Bulls’ points in a 71-50 loss to No. 4 Rutgers (20-4, 10-1). She started out hot – scoring 22 of the Bulls’ 30 first-half points – and had the Bulls tied with the Scarlet Knights at 25-25 shortly before halftime.

“I don’t know what we were doing, to tell you the truth,” Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer said about defending Grace.

After Grace’s strong start, Stringer changed the defense by having defenders switch off to give the guard different looks. She wanted to make it hard for Grace to receive passes, so defenders stayed tight on her when she didn’t have the ball, and it worked.

After the Rutgers defense locked in on Grace, she slowed down.

As Grace’s offensive production slowed down, so did the Bulls. She contributed only eight points to the Bulls’ 20 during the second half.

Grace said the Scarlet Knights “keyed” on her in the second half, using help defense to make it hard for her to get the ball. Rutgers left other players open, but “my teammates were wide open and really couldn’t make the shot,” she said.

The Bulls shot 7-of-29 in the second half for 24 percent. Grace took five shots in the second half, making two.

Junior guard Jazmine Sepulveda helped Grace, adding 10 points to USF’s total, but the rest of the team combined for 10 points, with only three coming from reserve players.

USF coach Jose Fernandez said the small forward position is a cause for concern for the team. The Bulls got four points from the position against Rutgers.

“That’s been a merry-go-round at that position all year,” Fernandez said. “We’ve gotten nothing from our three spot all season long.”

Not only did the Bulls struggle to score, they struggled to stop the Scarlet Knights, who shot a season-high 61 percent, going 26-of-42. USF played several defenses, but nothing seemed to work.

“We played a variety of zones all game long,” Fernandez said. “We knew we couldn’t defend them player for player just because of their athletic ability and their talent.”

Every player on the Rutgers team contributed to the scoreboard, including 31 points from its bench. Six players tallied at least eight points, with three players in double digits.