Loss tough to take for Fernandez

For the first time this season, USF coach Jose Fernandez said he was upset with the way his team played.

In a crucial Big East contest at Marquette (14-9, 5-5) on Tuesday night, with a chance to move up in the standings, the Bulls fell 63-50 at the Al McGuire Center.

“I’m very disappointed with our effort in a game for the first time this season,” Fernandez said. “We played uninspired basketball, and it showed on the scoreboard.”

The defeat was USF’s second in a row, dropping it into a tie with Providence for 10th in the conference.

And, again, shooting was the Bulls’ downfall, hitting just 33 percent from the field and going 19 percent from 3-point range. USF shot 57 percent from the free-throw line.

“Coach talked to us after the game and his main message was that we have to play more as a team and not so individualistic,” said Bulls forward Sequoyah Griffin, who scored 12 points. “If some of us continue to play the way we’ve been, we won’t be here in the future.”

A team with just four returning players from last season’s WNIT Champion roster, the Bulls (13-10, 4-6) continue to rely on newcomers.

Griffin, a junior college transfer in her first season, hit 50 percent of her shots and had four rebounds. She also had five turnovers.

“I had spurts tonight where I played well but I still need to get better,” Griffin said. “I could have made better decisions to limit turnovers, which would have really helped the team.”

After USF jumped out early, Marquette forward Jessica Pachko’s layup with five minutes left in the opening half gave the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game at 21-19, and they took a 26-21 advantage into halftime.

Griffin helped keep it close in the second half, hitting two 3-pointers and a jumper in a span of a minute and half, but foul trouble kept USF from making a strong push.

USF, already without starting point guard Jasmine Wynne for the season after she tore her ACL against Pittsburgh on Jan. 20, was left shorthanded when point guard KaNeisha Saunders picked up her fourth foul midway through the second half.

“KaNeisha (Saunders) getting into foul trouble really hurt us,” Fernandez said. “We don’t have any true point guards left on the floor with her on the bench and we committed three turnovers on three consecutive possessions right when we got close.”

Marquette has won three straight against USF, adding to last season’s sweep. If the Bulls are going to push for a postseason bid this season, they’ll have to show more effort, Fernandez said.

“Our girls just played absolute uninspired basketball, which is not representative of this program,” Fernandez said. “We have battled through injuries and adversity all season and we could have (last night), but we didn’t and I’m very disappointed.”