National Invitational Tournament may not have been the most accurate name for what the Bulls played in this weekend, heading off against two Florida teams, but the womens basketball team is finding postseason success once again.
In their first two games in the postseason National Invitational Tournament, the Bulls hosted state teams Florida Atlantic and Florida International and won both games handily, setting themselves up with a spot in the third round of the tournament. USF has not advanced this far into the NIT since 2009, when they won the NIT Championship.
In the opening round, the Bulls hosted the Florida Atlantic Eagles, a team that would prove to be no match for the Bulls vicious defense.
USF opened the game on a 6-0 run thanks to Jasmine Wynne, who scored all three buckets to open the game. The Bulls continued with much of the same energy for the first half, building a 30-point lead and allowing just five points for the majority of the first half before the Eagles hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to take their point total to eight entering the half.
I liked their focus, enthusiasm and energy level, coach Jose Fernandez said.
After the Eagles scored seven quick points to start the second half, USF allowed them to score just five more for the remainder of the game and scored 41 second half points of their own, winning the game 76-20, the eighth-largest win in school history.
USF returned to its home court for the second round of play against another in-state rival, the Florida International Panthers.
Though their offensive performance was nearly identical, their defense, as expected, was tested to a higher degree. The Panthers flipped the script to start, jumping out to a 4-0 lead. The Bulls responded quickly, however, with an 11-2 run of their own to take the lead for good, just seven minutes into the game.
Our guys came out the gate ready to play, Fernandez said.
USF fended off multiple scoring spurts by the Panthers and did not allow them to threaten their double-digit advantage, leading by as much as 22 with 13 minutes remaining. FIU came within 11 points multiple times before the Bulls won the game 77-61.
Wynne led the Bulls in scoring for the weekend, averaging just over 17 points in the first two rounds of the NIT. USF will move on to play James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va., this Friday at 7 p.m.