In a crowd full of pink, as part of the Eighth Annual Play 4Kay initiative, USF senior guard Inga Orekhova drained a 3-pointer, 72 seconds into the game against No. 1 UConn on Sunday.
The Bulls didn’t score again for roughly 10 minutes, though, and lost 63-38.
By the time USF scored its second basket, the Huskies mounted a 16-5 lead, which became a 32-15 margin at halftime. USF managed to keep the score closer in the second half, outscored 31-23. But the Bulls shot 26.3 percent from the floor and couldn’t keep up with the Huskies.
“I thought our kids fought and competed,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “They played with energy and effort. To win a game like this you’ve got to shoot a lot better than we did. I can live with that defensive effort, holding them to the low 60s. But as poorly as we shot, it just doesn’t give us a chance.”
Fernandez said the Huskies focused on USF’s leading scorer, sophomore guard Courtney Williams, who was held to seven points on 3-for-18 shooting. Orekhova led the Bulls with 17 points on a 6-for-13 effort, while sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins added one point in 21 minutes.
“(USF is) probably the hardest, if not one of the hardest, teams to defend because of how many plays they run to get players shots,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “That’s why I’m really happy with the defensive effort today. This is not an easy team to play defense against.”
USF (13-11, 8-5) held UConn (26-0, 13-0), a team that scores an average of 85 points per game, to 63 points – the Huskies’ lowest of the season.
The teams had roughly a week to prepare for each other with no midweek games, leading Fernandez to say the game never developed a flow.
During the week, Fernandez spent time in the hospital because of a delayed allergic reaction to a medication he was taking for diverticulitis, which he was previously hospitalized for almost three weeks ago.
“I told Geno (on) Wednesday or Thursday I’ll be at the game,” Fernandez said. “I’m just tired. It’s tough being away from your team and in the hospital. It’s definitely not the right way to lose 17 to 18 pounds.”
As Fernandez looks to recover, he said USF’s goal is to finish in the Top 4 of the American Athletic Conference before the conference tournament to secure a first-round bye.
USF travels to Cincinnati next for a 7 p.m. contest Wednesday.