USF hosts struggling SMU

The  Bulls head into their matchup with SMU on a seven-game win streak. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Boasting a seven-game win streak, USF’s efforts were praised by the USA Today Coaches’ Poll when it was awarded a No. 25 ranking in the poll’s latest edition Monday. Although featured earlier this season, a loss on the road to No. 8 Maryland (13-2, 4-0) quickly took the Bulls out of the top 25. 

USF (13-3, 4-0) takes on SMU (4-11, 0-4) tonight, which is winless so far in conference play, losing by an average of 35.3 points per game. The last time the Bulls faced SMU, in March, the former came away with a 72-51 victory.

Even with USF’s recent success, members of the team are wary of a second half of the season reminiscent of the Bulls’ dismal December display last season, when they went just 2-7. 

“We are much better than we were last year,” sophomore point guard Laura Marcos Canedo said. “Everything is coming together just how it’s supposed to.” 

USF has lost only three games this season, by an average of 8.3 points, with only one loss — St. John’s (13-3, 4-1) — occurring at home. Since then the Bulls have beaten their opponents by an average of 18.4 points per game, with a perfect conference record so far.

“I think we’re doing better this year because we’ve beaten higher-caliber teams,” sophomore center Katelyn Weber said. “We’ve put ourselves on the map with our non-conference schedule and have shown we have what it takes to win in big games.” 

Even with their high-scoring offense, the Bulls look to improve their defensive presence in the latter half of the season. 

“It starts on the defensive side of the ball,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “If we keep playing like we have been, then there’s no reason this team can’t make a deep run in March.”

USF will take on SMU in the Sun Dome at 7 p.m. and then head back on the road to face No. 2 UConn (14-1, 4-0) on Saturday in Storrs, Connecticut at 1 p.m.