Bulls’ loss hurts Tournament chances

South Florida women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez called Saturday’s game against Georgetown (14-12, 4-9) a “must-win.” The Bulls lost 66-56.

“It’s possibly the biggest game of our season,” Fernandez said. “Saturday is our season.”

The game presented the Bulls (13-13, 3-10) with a chance to jump to 11th place in the Big East Conference, which allows the top 12 teams to play for the conference championship at the end of the season. They remain 14th with only three games left on their schedule as they try to gain ground.

A difficult task lies ahead of the Bulls as these final games come against formidable foes – No.14 Notre Dame, No. 21 Pittsburgh and Marquette. Marquette (15-12, 7-7) defeated USF 79-66 on Jan. 26.

Georgetown appeared to be the easiest game left on the schedule. The Bulls needed to take advantage of it, and hoped to force Georgetown to shoot from the perimeter.

“If you watch the tape on (Georgetown), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out ‘Hey, these guys aren’t very good shooters.’ So let’s make them beat us from outside,” USF Director of Basketball Operations Andy Christensen said.

Georgetown hit 24-of-58 for 41.4 percent from the field, including 4-of-14 for 28.6 percent from behind the arc. However, the Hoyas’ sub-par shooting out-performed the Bulls, who shot 19-of-56 for 33.9 percent from the field, including 4-of-18 for 22.2 percent from behind the arc.

“For us to win, we got to shoot the ball well,” Fernandez said.

USF struggled at not only outside shooting, but inside as well. They missed many second-chance shots from inside the paint.

“We got 17 offensive rebounds from our guys tonight in the paint,” Fernandez said. “And when we did get an offensive rebound we just didn’t convert inside.”

USF kept the game close, going into the second half with the Hoyas up 30-25.

The second half started slowly as Georgetown crept further ahead of the Bulls. Then Hoya junior guard Karee Houlette hit a three-pointer with just under 13 minutes remaining and Georgetown’s lead hit double digits, 41-31.

USF never recovered from the three. The closest the team came was when junior guard Shantia Grace made a three-pointer with nearly 10 minutes left, bringing the deficit to five. Georgetown jumped back up shortly after.

As the game clock became shorter, the Bulls fouled more. Georgetown put the game away by converting its free throws. The Hoyas shot 12-of-15 for 80 percent from the free-throw line in the second half.