Louisville Cardinals coach Jeff Walz called a timeout after USF senior guard Inga Orekhova scored a 3-pointer that cut the Bulls’ deficit to four with 4:01 left in the first half. The Bulls went into the huddle with the closest margin they would see the rest of the game.
The Bulls gathered to talk about how to take the lead, but had to do so without coach Jose Fernandez, who was absent as the Bulls dropped their 10th game of the year in a 79-59 loss to the Cardinals.
The Bulls (11-10, 6-4) went into Louisville to face the No. 5 Cardinals with associate head coach Jeff Osterman taking over for Fernandez, who is recovering after a two-night stay at Florida Hospital for an undisclosed condition.
With Louisville senior Shoni Schimmel, the third-leading scorer in the American Athletic Conference, missing her first six shots, USF was able to keep it close for the first 16 minutes of the game.
But after Orekhova’s 3-pointer toward the end of the first half, the Cardinals (22-1, 10-0) jumped out to a 17-point
halftime lead, while shooting just 34 percent from the field.
After Louisville broke the huddle following the timeout, the Cardinals attacked the rim and earned foul calls, sinking free throw shots that helped them pull away from the Bulls. They finished the game
shooting 72 percent from the free-throw line.
Osterman and the Bulls kept it closer in the second half, being outscored 34-31, but couldn’t get past Cardinals senior guard Tia Gibbs, who finished the night with a team-leading 19 points, while Schimmel finished second with 14.
USF struggled to keep the ball in their possession with 20 turnovers that resulted in 27 points for Louisville, compared to the Cardinals’ 11 turnovers for 14 points for the Bulls.
Despite the loss, USF senior center Akila McDonald posted her second double-double of the year with 11 points and rebounds.
Under Osterman, the Bulls split the majority of playing time among five players who had 24 minutes or more, whereas Fernandez has typically spread out playing time up to nine or 10 players.
Sunday marked the first time in 2014 that USF has had five players with 24 minutes or more. Sophomore guard Courtney Williams played the entire 40 minutes and McDonald logged 36 minutes.
Fernandez was released from Florida Hospital on Friday after he was admitted to the hospital immediately after USF’s win against Houston in the Sun Dome on Wednesday night.
Fernandez is expected to rejoin the team when USF travels to play Memphis on Wednesday at 7 p.m.