The soft sand and warm beaches of the U.S. Virgin Islands were kind to USF (5-2), and the women’s basketball team was able to beat both Oklahoma (5-2) and Illinois (6-2) in the Paradise Jam Basketball Tournament.
However, the team fell short against No. 9 Kentucky on Saturday.
USF faced its toughest test of the tournament when it played Kentucky (6-1) for the tournament championship.
The Bulls held a 21-12 lead after the first 10 minutes, but had their lead cut to three by halftime. USF held on for the better part of the second half, but Kentucky began to target the Bulls down low in the paint.
The Wildcats took command with 6:25 left, thanks to a strong defensive effort on the perimeter. USF fell short in shooting with seven straight shots missing the mark, and Kentucky took advantage to get a four-point lead.
With 33 seconds left, the Wildcats made a layup and the Bulls couldn’t get their shot on the other end to go down. Kentucky escaped with a 61-57 win over USF.
Junior guard Courtney Williams had 23 points and five rebounds in a game where she was the only USF player to score double-digits. The team had six total assists, which tied their lowest effort of the season. Junior forward Shavontae Naylor led the team in rebounding with six off the bench.
Even with the loss, the Bulls head back to Tampa having nearly pulled off the tournament sweep. Two wins against previously undefeated teams in Oklahoma and Illinois will help the Bulls’ RPI and postseason hopes.
The Bulls return home to take on Stetson in the Sun Dome on Wednesday at 7 p.m.