Offense powers USF win

There was no scoring drought for South Florida on Sunday.

Though junior Janae Stokes was injured in the last half, USF ended a two-game scoring slump with an 88-79 victory at Syracuse in the Carrier Dome.

“I’m just really happy for our players because this win showed a lot of character from our team,” said USF coach Jose Fernandez.

With less than 12 minutes remaining, Syracuse sophomore Tasha Harris collided with Stokes and sent her barreling to the ground. Stokes was carried off the court and couldn’t put pressure on her right leg.

However, just minutes later, Stokes returned and finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

“(Stokes) really gave us energy,” said USF forward Jessica Lawson. “I feel like we played great as a team, but seeing Janae come back and play the way she did made me want to play harder. It made me want to battle for the loose balls more.”

The Orange (14-9, 3-7) trailed by three with less than seven minutes remaining, but USF’s defense, which forced 17 turnovers, enabled the Bulls to push the lead back up to 11 with just over one minute left on the clock.

“We really had to tighten up defensively at the end,” Lawson said.

The Bulls took a 21-12 lead with 8:46 remaining in the opening half, but the Orange tied it 38-38 at halftime with help from 14 first-half points from junior Nicole Michael.

The Bulls, who scored less than 60 points in their previous two games, had all five starters finish in double figures. Lawson was 7-for-10 from the field and scored 16 points.

“The really good thing about this game was getting all of our players involved offensively,” Fernandez said. “We overcame a lot, too, at the end with having players in foul trouble.”

With the win, USF (17-7, 4-6) moves into a tie for eighth in the Big East and into a better position for an NCAA Tournament bid.

The Bulls have a week to prepare for Seton Hall. The Pirates face USF at the Sun Dome on Saturday.

“One of the biggest things is the fact that some of our losses have come to teams that had a week to prepare for us,” Fernandez said. “Now, we have a whole week to prepare for our next game. That’s what we told our players.”