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Strong defense helps Bulls in win over Pirates

The USF women’s basketball team put the old philosophy that defense wins games to the test Saturday.

The Bulls (14-10, 5-6) snapped a two-game losing streak by stifling Seton Hall, holding the Pirates to 12 points in the first half, en route to a 53-38 victory on the road.

“I was very proud of our team’s performance,” said USF coach Jose Fernandez, “especially coming off that loss to Marquette (on Tuesday), where, for whatever reason, we did not play inspired basketball. But our girls played tremendous defense today by contesting every shot and always having their hands in the shooter’s face.”

Terry Green and Kandice Green combined for 28 of Seton Hall’s points, with the rest of the team sputtering to its 12th loss in 13 games.

The Bulls, who entered shooting just 33 percent in their last two games, shot 41 percent Saturday and held Seton Hall (9-16, 1-11) to 22 percent from the floor. USF beat Seton Hall 33-23 on the defensive glass as well.

“Coach (Fernandez) challenged us to play better on the defensive end, and we really stepped up,” said Bulls center Jessica Lawson, who led the team with 12 points and 14 rebounds. “We haven’t played much zone defense this season but (we) responded really well.”

Every Bull had at least two rebounds, and the Bulls had 14 assists while Seton Hall had nine.

“The girls really rallied after the Marquette game,” Fernandez said. “We had two straight productive practices and were prepared and ready to go. Our players paid attention and followed their assignments, which had them playing sound, team basketball.”

To add to USF’s two-game losing streak, the team’s traveling plans were thrown off when a snowstorm kept them from arriving in New Jersey an extra day. But the Bulls overcame it to win their second road win in the Big East this season.

It may have come at a good time, as USF faces two teams ranked in the top 25: No. 16 Georgetown on Wednesday and No. 9 West Virginia on Saturday.

“Our team has battled through adversity all season,” Fernandez said. “We have a very inexperienced team playing in the best conference in the country, but at the end of the day, these girls find a way to get it done. They have really overachieved at times, and if we keep battling and working hard, this season could really end on a good note.”