While the USF women’s basketball team is “playing mad” in response to being left out of the NCAA Tournament, its 60-51 win against Rutgers on March 3 potentially knocked the Scarlet Knights out of The Big Dance as well.
According to sophomore guard Courtney Williams, this defeat gives the Scarlet Knights a reason to play with a similar emotion as the Bulls.
“I think they are going to have a lot of animosity because we beat them at home and that’s a hard thing to do when it comes to Rutgers,” she said. “I definitely think they are going to come in here playing with a chip on their shoulder.”
Rutgers finished the season 21-8 with a 12-6 record in the AAC. Even though both teams finished their conference tournament in the semifinal round, Rutgers had one top 50 Rating Percentage Index (RPI) win against Georgia during their season.
USF lost all eight of its top 50 RPI matches.
With Rutgers losing to USF in the last game of the season as the then-24th-ranked team in the nation, and USF
without a top 50 RPI win, both accepted invitations to the WNIT.
USF (23-12, 13-5) still has a chip as well after Williams hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left against Mississippi State in Sunday’s 60-58 WNIT quarterfinal win.
When asked about the shot, though, she laughed off the praise she received after the game and directed it at another member of the team.
“I think Shalethia (Stringfield) is the reason we’re standing here because she kept us in the game the whole way though,” Williams said. “I think she needs more congratulations than a lot of us.”
Stringfield, a redshirt sophomore, scored a career-high 20 points against the Bulldogs after stepping in for teammates who were in foul trouble.
Senior guard Inga Orekhova, who also was in foul trouble during that game, said she saw the effort reserves such as Stringfield contributed off the bench.
“Like (USF coach Jose) Fernandez said, we need every person to step up when people are in foul trouble or hurt,” Orekhova said. “Everyone knows their role, whenever they get into the game. They know what to do.”
Fernandez said his team will focus on rebounds and turnovers during its final matchup against Rutgers this season.
Rutgers is the only team in the conference that USF split a season series with. During the first game on Dec. 28 in Tampa, the Scarlet Knights out-rebounded the Bulls 42-38 and produced 18 points off
When USF won its second matchup of the season, the team out rebounded Rutgers 46-39 and scored 13 points off 14 turnovers.
Williams said she thinks the Bulls will have to get tough when trying to compete defensively.
“They’re so tough and aggressive,” she said. “It’s just (about) matching their aggressiveness and we should be fine.”
If the Bulls win their semifinal game against Rutgers, Fernandez said he doesn’t expect to see fans experience a WNIT final
“I would think that we are going to go on the road, to be honest with you,” Fernandez said. “But if the WNIT deem that we are a nice host, I don’t mind hosting on Saturday. I think that would be great for the Tampa Bay community and the fans.”
More than 3,000 fans have been attending games at both UTEP and South Dakota State, compared to an average of about 1,000 at the Sun Dome. Fernandez, who has never been to either location, attributed attendance to a likely travel scenario.
USF will play the WNIT semifinal game against Rutgers tonight at 7 in the Sun Dome.