It’s a new year and with a new season comes a batch of new faces for the USF women’s basketball team as it began its 2013-14 season over the weekend against No. 6 Maryland and Central Connecticut State at the Sun Dome.
As a remix of “Lights” by Ellie Goulding blared through the speakers of the arena with a projection of highlights from last season, the Bulls hoped to continue where they left off from last year’s NCAA tournament run.
With fans cheering and the “Herd of Thunder” playing USF’s fight song, the Bulls split their opening weekend with a 78-70 loss Friday night against the Terps and a 81-47 victory Sunday over the Blue Devils.
Through two games, USF coach Jose Fernandez said his assessment of his team is to continue to develop his players.
“We got to continue to improve and get better in a lot of different areas,” Fernandez said. “Maryland, I don’t think we shot the ball very well from the floor. We didn’t do that from the free throw. Today (Sunday), I don’t think we rebounded as well as we should have. We are far from where we want to be.”
USF shot 32 percent from the floor and 62 percent from the free throw line against Maryland.
As it unveiled its tournament banner into the rafters, USF opened the season with a test against the Terps.
With senior guard Inga Orekhova struggling, shooting 0-for-11 from the floor along with two points, the Bulls relied heavily sophomore guard Courtney Williams to carry the team as she posted a career high 21 points along with seven rebounds in their defeat.
“Coach told us we can play with anybody,” Williams said. “We believe him and tonight it showe
The game began with both team trading shots before the Bulls took a two-point lead, 11-9, with a 3-pointer by freshman guard Ariadna Pujol eight minutes into the first half. But that would be the last time USF had the lead as the Terps snatched it with a pair of Lauren Mincy’s free throws.
The Bulls would cut the deficit to two after the Terps’ took a seven point lead before Maryland’s offense caught fire, using a 15-2 run to end the half when Mincy and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough made their free throws, then Mincy’s 3-pointer gave them breathing room with a nine-point lead before Lexie Brown ended the half with a three to push it to 15, 43-28, after several made layups.
“That was just demoralizing,” Fernandez said.
The Terps continued their onslaught in the second half before junior guard Tamara Taylor’s 3-pointer, layup and jump shot sparked a Bulls’ 9-0 run to cut the deficit to six, but the Terps were able to withstand USF’s run en route to its victory over the Bulls.
Fernandez said the gameplan was to match the Terps’ intensity on the glass, a team that led the ACC in rebounding, averaging 43 per game, which they did with both teams grabbing 49 rebounds apiece. The Bulls out-rebounded the Terps on the offensive end grabbing 22 compared to 13.
Following their defeat against Maryland, the Bulls headed into their game Central Connecticut State hungry for a win.
With sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins’ second straight double-double, 16 points and 10 rebounds, and freshman guard Ariadna Pujol’s posting a career high 20 points, the Bulls cruised past the Blue Devils at home for their first win of the season.
The former Spain national junior team standout converted 12 of her 20 points from the start to give the Bulls a 16-13 lead with 9:50 remaining in the first half.
“It was good today that we got her the ball and we found her. She’s good,” Fernandez said.
With help from Taylor’s shooting from the outside, the Bulls walked into the locker room with 36-25 lead.
“They shot the ball really well,” Fernandez said.
USF dominated the rest of the game, shooting 48 percent in the second half and overall, opening it with a 13-3 run, and forcing 17 Blue Devil turnovers en route to its first victory.
The Bulls continue its home stand against Jacksonville on Wednesday at 7 p.m.