USF falls to No. 7 Louisville

Despite trailing early, No. 7 Louisville beat South Florida 76-60 at the Sun Dome on Wednesday night with the help of a late first-half surge.

“We did a very good job of breaking the press and scoring off of it,” said Louisville coach Jeff Walz. “I thought they stopped pressing us because we scored in transition.”

The Cardinals were able to force 24 turnovers on USF, but despite their success, Walz said his team did a poor job of defending against two USF players.

“Our goal was to try and keep (USF) out of the paint,” he said. “(Forward Jessica) Lawson and (forward Brittany) Denson, they rebound the ball as well as any team in the country. They absolutely owned us in the paint.”

With Lawson’s help, the Bulls cut the Cardinal’s lead to 56-50 with six minutes remaining. However, a 9-2 run allowed Louisville to pull away.

Lawson scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds on her way to her second double-double of the season — and all this after being unable to practice earlier this week because of a knee injury. USF coach Jose Fernandez said he was proud of her effort.

“She didn’t practice the last two days just because she has knee swelling,” he said. “I think she’s really working hard for us down there and finishing around the basket.”

Lawson said USF’s turnovers made a major difference in the game.

“They turned us over and just got us out of our element,” she said. “I think they just scored on most of our turnovers.”

South Florida guard Shantia Grace went 6-of-7 from the free throw line en route to 15 points.

“Every loss we can learn from,” Grace said. “And for us to compete with top 25 teams is a great experience for us. It motivates us to know how good we can play and how well we can play against  top-ranked teams.”

The Bulls will see what they’ve learned from the loss when they play 8-1 Pittsburgh on the road Saturday night.