Women’s basketball ready for final four

One thing is certain: The Bulls are enjoying the postseason ride.

With three straight wins in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament, USF (25-10) has put itself into position to clinch a spot in the championship game tonight when the team faces Boston College (23-11) on the road at 7 at Conte Forum.

“I’m very excited,” said USF senior Jessica Lawson. “Half of us have never been here before, and I’m just happy to be (in the final four).”

With previous WNIT victories over Florida Gulf Coast, Mississippi and St. Bonaventure, USF is in its furthest post-season position in school history. Senior Shantia Grace, who scored 14 points in a win over St. Bonaventure on Sunday, said it would be disappointing not to win the Bulls’ first-ever postseason championship.

“We’ve got to finish off the season,” she said. “Our job is to win tonight and head to the NIT championship game.”

The Eagles, who are coming off a 65-56 victory over Georgetown, are led by 6-foot-6 center Carolyn Swords, who averages 15.3 points and eight rebounds per game.

“They’re a good inside-outside team,” said USF coach Jose Fernandez. “We’ve got to defend the post players.”

Lawson, a 6-foot-3 center, has led the Bulls in the postseason, averaging a double-double with 14.3 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. The USF senior will likely match up against Swords on defense.

“I think (Boston College is) a great team,” Lawson said. “We’re going to go in with Coach’s game plan, buy into it, and go out there and win the game.”

USF and Boston College share four opponents this season: St. John’s, Georgetown, Florida International and Notre Dame.

The Bulls lost to Notre Dame and Georgetown, but beat St. John’s in overtime at home. The Eagles split two games with the Red Storm, defeated the Hoyas in the previous round and lost to the Irish 102-54. Both teams defeated FIU by more than 20 points.

“It’s an important game, and I’m going to play it like it’s my last,” Grace said. “I want to leave everything I have out on the floor.”

The winner of tonight’s game will play either Kansas or Illinois State in the championship, which will be at an on-campus site Saturday at 2 p.m. The Bulls have entered a bid to host the final game.

“Coach has been telling us that only two teams finish the season off with a win: the NIT champion and the NCAA champion,” Lawson said. “Just to be in one of those categories is just a blessing.”