The net snapped back, and junior forward Inga Orekhova couldn’t help but smile.
Her fifth 3-pointer of the night had found its way in, and with 1:09 left on the clock the neck-and-neck game with No. 7 seed Texas Tech was once again tied at 66.
With the game knotted up, Orekhova’s shot from beyond the arch would prove to be the last field goal that USF needed to make school history.
The Red Raiders committed three fouls in the final minute of play on Saturday, and the Bulls sank five of six free throws to seal the first Big Dance win for the women’s basketball team in USF history, 71-70.
The Bulls will go on to face the No. 2 seed in the Spokane region, California, in Round 2 of the NCAA Tournament at 9:45 p.m.
“We work on a lot of those game situations in practice and I think it showed our kids that we’re never rattled down the stretch,” coach Jose Fernandez said in a press release. “That’s a credit to them.”
For the entire game, each team looked as though they could steal the game at any second. Neither team led by double digits during any point in the game, which proved to be about as evenly matched as possible.
The result was determined by the final few minutes of play. While many may have liked to watch the suspense, the only people that could witness the outcome
was the 6,062 people in attendance in Lubbock, Texas after technical difficulties cutoff ESPN’s broadcast.
“The ESPN production truck suffered complete power loss due to a blown fuse,” a statement from ESPN said after the game. “Monday’s second round game featuring
California and South Florida will not be affected.”
But what most of the nation couldn’t see, turned into a thrilling conclusion in which USF regained the lead at just the right time to seal the game.
But in addition to Orekhova’s 3-pointer, the game was won at the free-throw line for USF.
The Bulls scored seven points from the line in the final two minutes of the game.
Senior guard Andrell Smith said making free throws couldn’t have been easier.
“I believed in myself and my teammates believed in me,” Smith said. “I knew I could do it.”
The winner of tonight’s game will face the winner of a game between Penn State and LSU on Saturday.