South Florida wins two in Virgin Islands

Despite a 4-0 start to the season, South Florida women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez wasn’t sure how good his team was.

After going 2-1 at the Paradise Jam in the U.S. Virgin Islands this weekend, he should have a better idea about where USF stands.

The Bulls bounced back after losing 85-55 to No. 3 California (6-0) on Thursday to defeat Big Ten champions Iowa (4-3) 82-79 on Friday and Texas Tech (4-3) 71-61 on Saturday night.

“We played some very good teams this weekend,” Fernandez said. “These types of games against these types of teams prepare us for January, when conference play begins.”

The Bulls shot 27.5 percent from the field in the loss to California. Fernandez said that surprised him, considering the Bulls are shooting 45.9 percent this season.

“You know, we didn’t shoot well (against Cal),” he said. “You just can’t go out there and shoot that bad against that good of a team.”

The Bulls, however, responded less than 24 hours later.

Led by senior Shantia Grace’s 27 points, the Bulls defeated Iowa 82-79 in overtime, despite blowing a 10-point lead with less than four minutes left in regulation.

“That was a great win for us,” Grace said. “We were disappointed with how we played against Cal, but we did a good job bouncing back to beat Iowa.”

USF (6-1) carried its momentum into Saturday night and defeated Texas Tech 71-61 in a game that had 14 lead changes. Again, Grace led the Bulls in scoring with 15 points, and fueled a 21-7 run to close the game.

However, senior Brittany Denson stole the show with 12 points, seven rebounds and six blocks. Denson accumulated 16 blocks in the three games — breaking the previous tournament record of nine, set by Maryland’s Laura Harper and Tennessee’s Candace Parker.

“This was a tremendous win for our basketball program,” Fernandez said. “We had a tremendous trip to the Paradise Jam and couldn’t be more thrilled with a 2-1 record.”

Fernandez said despite the good experience, the trip was draining on his team.

“The kids are really tired and are ready to go home,” he said. “They have exams on their minds and have a lot of stuff going on.”

USF will get some rest this week. The Bulls don’t play until Friday, when they host Florida International at 7 p.m. at the Sun Dome.