South Florida senior guard Shantia Grace finally understands how challenging the Big East conference is.
“Everybody should know how hard we have to play to win in the Big East,” Grace said after Saturday’s 81-71 overtime victory over St. John’s.
The Bulls will play one of their toughest opponents of the season when they host No. 7 Louisville tonight at 7 at the Sun Dome.
Coming off the win, Grace said she is confident in USF’s ability to win two straight in Big East play, despite losing the first two conference games to Marquette and No. 1 Connecticut.
“Louisville is another top 25 team,” she said. “It will be another hard, grinding game, but we should be able to come out with a win.”
Hard, grinding games are staples in the Big East.
Including tonight’s opponent, the only team without a winning record on USF’s remaining schedule is Providence (7-9), who the Bulls play Jan. 20.
Coming off a 64-59 victory over Rutgers on Sunday, the Cardinals (16-1, 3-0) have won 11 straight games, 10 of which have been at home.
All-American senior Angel McCoughtry leads Louisville in scoring and rebounding, with
21.2 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. With her help, the team ranks in the nation’s top 30 in scoring offense.
The Bulls (14-3, 1-2) are led by Grace’s 15.9 points per game. South Florida has the third-best scoring offense in the country.
Coach Jose Fernandez said he’s hoping for USF’s offense — and a home crowd — to fuel his team to an upset.
“It’s just another (Big East team) we have to play,” he said. “We have them at home. You play better at home because that’s where you practice every day.”
South Florida guard Janae Stokes said even in light of Louisville’s success, the Bulls will not approach the Cardinals differently than any other opponent.
“We just have to stay together, play as a team and keep our heads up,” she said. “We have to keep the mind-set that nothing is going to be easy.”