Bulls defeat Mustangs; prepare for champs

Tamara Taylor scored 18 points on only eight shots Wednesday night. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

It took USF over nine minutes to reach double-digit scoring, but the Bulls were able to cruise to a 82-59 victory over SMU (4-12, 0-5) on Wednesday night in the Sun Dome. 

With point guards Laura Marcos Canedo and Shalethia Stringfield resting due to nagging injuries, USF (14-3, 5-0) struggled on offense throughout the game, other than junior guard Courtney Williams and senior guard Tamara Taylor. 

“We wanted to save Stringfield and Canedo just because Stringfield had an injection on Monday and Canedo is still hurting from straining her knee at Tulane,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “We played the other two point guards, but we wanted a little bit more.”

Williams and Taylor did the bulk of the scoring, combining for 45 points on 16-for-28 shooting. 

The rest of the team made only 13-of-55 shots.

But despite the slow offensive start for the Bulls, once they grabbed their first lead 10 minutes into the game, they never trailed for the remaining 30 minutes. 

USF now looks ahead to an anticipated matchup with No. 2 UConn in Storrs, Connecticut at 1 p.m. Sunday.

UConn has been one of the most dominant teams in all of sports over the last two decades, accumulating 701 wins since the 1994-95 season, giving them a winning percentage of 92.9 percent.

More recently, the Huskies have won at least 30 games in each of the last eight seasons while reaching the last six Final Fours. 

“You’re chasing the dragon every year, that’s what we call it,” Fernandez said. “That’s why you coach, that’s why you build a program, and that’s our next step. We need a huge signature win.”

This year’s Huskies team started the season with a dismantling of West Chester 114-26. Since then, UConn has averaged 88.8 points per game this season, with an average winning margin of 37.5 points.

But despite the Huskies’ gaudy numbers, Williams said the Bulls don’t view them any differently from other teams. 

“No doubt in my mind I think we will beat them, for real,” Williams said. “They’re human, just like us. People look at them and think they’re unstoppable, but we all put in the same time (in the gym). I don’t see why we can’t be the team to beat them.”

The Bulls travel to Storrs with a 14-3 record and an eight-game winning streak after knocking off SMU on Wednesday night.

Of USF’s three losses, two came from teams currently ranking in the top 10 and the third, St. John’s, is receiving votes.

With both teams undefeated in the conference, the winner of this marquee matchup can make a strong push for a conference championship.