Bulls win in overtime

South Florida senior guard Shantia Grace scored the last two points in overtime to seal the win, but she could have ended Saturday night’s game five minutes earlier.

Grace hit two free throws as time dwindled in overtime to capture USF’s first Big East victory with an 81-71 win over the St. John’s Red Storm at the Sun Dome.

“It’s a lot of pressure, having to make free throws down the stretch,” Grace said. “It’s either you take your time and make it, or you put your head down and miss.”

Grace had a chance to win the game in regulation with two free throws, but only made one to put the Bulls ahead 70-68 with 18.9 seconds left.

St. John’s senior guard Monique McLean was then fouled and capitalized on two free throws to send the game into the extra period.

The Bulls (14-3, 1-2) outscored the Red Storm 11-1 in overtime to end their two-game Big East losing streak. USF was coming off a 46-point home loss to No. 1 Connecticut.

“No one likes to lose, and for us to come off a bad loss against Connecticut, I just wanted us to win,” Grace said.

Trailing by five at halftime, South Florida Coach Jose Fernandez emphasized the importance of the game.

“I thought, to be honest, this was a must-win for us,” he said.

USF shot 40.3 percent from the field and blocked eight of St. John’s shots. Senior Jessica Lawson led USF in scoring with 19 points.

Grace, who had 10 points, said the team has learned from its previous losses.

“It gave us confidence as a team,” she said. “We can be a great team once we all play together and once we all stay positive. It’s hard coming down from 0-2 in the Big East. This win gave us our confidence back.”

One of those gaining confidence is junior guard Janae Stokes.

Stokes, one of USF’s three leading scorers, broke out of her scoring slump with
17 points. Stokes had a combined six points in the last two losses.

“I didn’t talk myself out of it,” Stokes said. “I do like I always do, which is just play and just let the game come to me, nothing more and nothing less.”