A successful team in sports must be dynamic.
It must continually change and better its game or it ends up being stuck with the same results.
The USF women’s basketball team has shown through the season how dynamic they can be. Just past the midway point of the season, USF had already
suffered four losses by ten points or less which all came as a result of not closing out games.
Closing out these games had become a chief concern of the coaching staff and something that needed to be fixed if the Bulls were to succeed.
The Bulls resolved that issue in a timely manner.
USF’s ability to close games revealed itself in both tournament games this season.
Each game was against more favorably seeded opponents, but the Bulls didn’t back down in the final minutes of games as they had earlier this season.
Though an ESPN power failure made it impossible to see if you weren’t in Lubbock, Texas, the Bulls seized control of their first ever tournament win against Texas Tech in the final two minutes of the game.
Even with the pressure high, the Bulls were poised as ever while sinking shots and grabbing tough rebounds.
They seemed to have prepared well for this scenario throughout practices and were well-equipped to handle the pressure.
The Bulls escaped the game with a one-point victory and faced No. 2 seed California in the next matchup just two days later.
California would prove to be a much more difficult opponent for USF than Texas Tech.
Given wishes of good luck by Kobe Bryant before the game, the Golden Bears already seemed to have the upper hand. The game proved to be somewhat of a back-and-forth affair, but California was up for most of the second half, and up nine with less than a minute
Chances of a comeback looked to be abysmal, but the Bulls knew they had it in them to close the game. With the help of several free throws and some California turnovers, USF was down three with the ball and less than two seconds remaining in the game.
Anyone who has watched the Bulls this season knew who the ball was going to. Three-point shooter Inga Orekhova hoisted up a heavily contested shot as time
To the roaring approval of the Bulls’ bench, a whistle sounded meaning Orekhova had been fouled on the shot. USF’s entire season would ride on the upcoming free throws. Orekhova made 79 percent of her free throws in the season and made all three of them fall when it counted — USF had completed the nine-point comeback in under a minute.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, they would fall into overtime to the Golden Bears. But what USF showed in the tournament was that they were a different team.
They had evolved into a team fearless of their opponent and the moment.
Looking forward, the Bulls will certainly look to build upon this historic season and the lessons they learned.
Leaving the team this year for graduation are starters Andrea and Andrell Smith, and bench contributors Sasha Bernard, Tiffany Connor, Alesha Flowers, Tahira Johnson and Caitlin Rowe.
This group of players will be missed on the court, but the future looks bright for USF with their run in the tournament having geared fans to expect great things in the coming season.