Women’s basketball tramples Coppin State

Just one minute into the game, South Florida women’s basketball senior Shantia Grace nailed her first three-pointer, cracking a smile as she jogged back down to the other end of the court.

She had a lot to smile about Sunday.

Grace hit eight three-pointers — a school record — and led the Bulls to a 97-43 win over Coppin State at the Sun Dome. She also broke the school record for most points scored in a game, finishing with 44.

“I feel awesome,” Grace said. “I wasn’t really thinking about a school record or points, or anything like that. I was more concerned with my shooting.”

After Sunday’s game, some might argue that she shouldn’t be too concerned — the preseason all-Big East selectee went 16-of-24 from the field and 4-of-4 from the free-throw line.

At the 16:17 mark in the second half, she hit the record-breaking three-pointer to put USF up 66-21. Grace said her performance is a reflection of her hard work.

“I just stayed in the gym all night last night,” she said. “I was hoping that it carried over, and after I hit that first shot I was good to go.”

The Bulls (4-0) shot 47.4 percent from the field and held the Eagles to just 31.9 percent.

Coppin State (0-2) struck first blood, scoring on its first possession of the game. But USF went on a 28-3 run to take a 57-17 lead into halftime. Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said it was Grace’s performance that fueled the win.

“Shantia Grace had a great individual performance,” he said. “She played within herself and scored 44 points in 28 minutes. That was very impressive.”

Fernandez said, however, that he’s keeping things in perspective. After all, the four opponents the Bulls defeated have a combined record of 4-9 this season.

The Bulls will travel this week to the Virgin Islands to take part in the Paradise Jam, which Fernandez said will be the first real test of the season.

South Florida will play in a four-team tournament with No. 7 University of California (3-0), Texas Tech University (4-0) and University of Iowa (3-1).

“The teams we are going to be playing down there are going to be a bit different,” Fernandez said. “We’ll see how playing up-tempo and high energy will shape up.”