Women’s basketball to battle the Wildcats

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL GAME TIMEVillanova (15-10, 5-7) at USF (12-10, )When: Tonight, 7Where: Sun DomeTV/Radio: 1010 AM

Five games remain in the South Florida women’s basketball season, and the next two present the team with a critical point in the season to make the Big East tournament – tonight, against Villanova (15-10, 5-7), Saturday, Georgetown (13-11, 3-8).

Three games against formidable opponents come afterward – No. 14 Notre Dame, No. 23 Pittsburgh and Marquette, a team that defeated USF by 13 points, 79-66, earlier this year – so USF needs to take advantage of the weaker competition.

“I think the next two games are crucial for us to make the conference tournament,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “You got (Villanova) at home and (Georgetown) on the road. You’re playing two of the teams that are also fighting to get to Hartford, so they’re almost must-win games.”

The top 12 teams make the tournament. USF sits at 14th, Villanova at 10th and Georgetown at 12th place. A win against both teams puts the Bulls in 13th, and if Seton Hall – currently in 13th – loses, then the Bulls will move into 12th place going into the final three games.

The Bulls need to focus on one game at a time, and tonight they face a good three-point-shooting Villanova team that controls the ball and slows down the game.

By slowing down the game, the Wildcats minimize other teams’ possessions, enabling Villanova to win games while scoring just 61.7 points per game – 13th in the Big East. The Bulls average 67.4 – 10th in the conference.

The Wildcats three-point attack concerns Fernandez. They lead the Big East at 38.9 percent. Some of the post players for USF will have to help guard against three-pointers.

“We are going to have to do a very good job defending the arc,” Fernandez said. “And our post players are going to have step out and defend.”

Fernandez said the Wildcats take care of every possession and the Bulls will need to control tempo to defeat Villanova.

“Two ways you can control tempo is by speeding it up and taking more shots, and with our defensive pressure,” he said.

The Bulls plan to apply full-court pressure. However, if the Bulls don’t convert baskets, the up-tempo action and defensive plan could fail.

“We plan on pushing the ball every single possession. (But) if you don’t score, you can’t do full court pressure to speed the game up,” Fernandez said.

The Wildcats give up some easy baskets and rank 14th in the Big East in field goal percentage defense.