Impactful newcomers eye next task

Newcomers who play well on an inexperienced team can help take the load off its’upperclassmen.

For a while, USF wasn’t’getting that production. But that’s changed in recent games, said USF women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez.

‘(Players) such as (freshman) Kaneisha Saunders, (junior) Sequoyah Griffin, and (junior) Leondra Doomes-Stephens have gotten better as the’season has progressed,’ he said. ‘They have all elevated their games since the start of’conference play and have very important roles on this team.’

Griffin is third on the team in scoring with 10 points per game, Saunders is averaging 8.9 per game and’Doomes-Stephens has averaged 11 per game in the previous three contests.

The Bulls (10-7, 1-3) are not only riding on a wave of good play from the three but an upset victory over then-No. 25 Syracuse on’ Saturday, as they head into tonight’s matchup with Pittsburgh (11-6, 0-4) at 7 in the Sun Dome.

‘ ‘After playing as well as we did at home with our backs against the wall, our kids really responded,’ Fernandez said.’ ‘But we have a very talented Pittsburgh team coming in here looking for its first conference win so we need to stay focused and take care of business.’

The Bulls lost their first three conference games, though they were against some of the elite teams in the country – let alone the Big East. But senior Jessica Lawson said with the support of players like Griffin, Saunders and Doomes-Stephens, the team is playing well-rounded basketball.

‘For a large part of this’season, we would rely on just one player or one shot,’ she said.’ ‘But now everybody is beginning to realize their roles and our chemistry on the court has greatly improved.’

Fernandez said he felt his team hit a low point after’starting 0-3 in the conference.

‘Our kids lost focus a little bit with the adversity we faced losing a few games in a row,’ he said. ‘But we’re starting four players who weren’t even apart of the 27-win team that won the WNIT Championship last year.’ We have a lot of girls who have never tasted what it was like to compete in the Big East before a few weeks ago, so the key is to take it one game at a time.’