For a brief moment, the USF women’s basketball team looked to be back at full health and ready to see what it could accomplish with a full complement of players. But that notion didn’t last long.
Despite earning a dominant 97-82 win over Memphis (16-10, 10-5) on Sunday, the No. 19 Bulls (19-7, 12-3) may have paid a high price, losing freshman sensation Kitija Laksa for the waning minutes of the game after rolling her ankle on a drive to the basket.
“We’re a different team when we have everybody healthy,” said coach Jose Fernandez who didn’t speak to the severity of Laksa's injury.
The Bulls added Alisia Jenkins back to their arsenal on Feb. 6 after the senior forward missed four games with a foot injury. During Sunday’s game in front of an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,236, USF added even more firepower with sophomore forward Laura Ferreira who has missed six games this season.
Laksa sits second on the team in scoring with 13.4 points a game, shooting 42.4 percent from 3-point range.
With the injury coming late, Laksa was still able to score 13 points with seniors Courtney Williams (23), Jenkins (20), Shalethia Stringfield (19) and Ferreira (19) also scoring in double figures.
Jenkins also grabbed 17 rebounds.
With the AAC tournament only a week away, the loss of Laksa for any extended period of time could limit the Bulls’ offense, which has had the ability to approach triple digits with her on the floor.
USF will need her outside shooting if it has aspirations of making a deep run in this year’s NCAA tournament.
Men’s golf seizes control in Gainesville
After sitting a single behind from the host Florida Gators at The Gator Invitational, USF men’s golf controlled the final round to seal the win and defend its title on Sunday.
This marks the second-straight year USF has won the event and the individual crown, with senior Rigel Fernandes (13-under-par) edging Florida’s Sam Horsfield by four shots.
Fernandes set a program record in the win, with a tournament-low 63 in his second round.
“He flat out golfed his ball,” coach Steven Bradley said of Fernandes, who didn’t card a bogey in his final 36 holes. “He’s such an awesome young man and great teammate. He did a great job of staying in the present and playing one shot at a time.”
Senior Aksel Olsen also finished inside the top 10, shooting 5-under-par at the par-70 Mark Bostic Golf Course in Gainesville. Fellow senior Chase Koepka and sophomore Claudio Correa finished tied for 26th, with sophomore Cristian DiMarco claiming 19th place.
Softball stuggles in Michele Smith Invitational
It was another stacked field for USF softball in the Michele Smith Pediatric Cancer Invitational in Clearwater. The Bulls (2-7) went 1-3 losing to No. 3 Auburn (10-1) 6-0 on Friday and Oklahoma State (4-6) and No. 12 Tennessee (8-3) by a combined score of 18-7 on Saturday.
USF had its chance in the bottom of the seventh inning against Tennessee down 6-4 at the Eddie C. Moore softball complex. Sophomores Lauren Evans and Mia Fung advanced into scoring position off pitching errors, putting the winning run at the plate.
Sophomore Kenya Yancy forced a 2-2 count, but struck out swinging, ending the Bulls’ chance at a comeback win.
USF’s lone win came in an 11-2 rout of Fordham (2-8) in five innings on Friday.
USF has struggled with top-tier teams, going 0-4 against ranked teams in its first two weekends. The Bulls are back in action against Jacksonville on Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the USF Softball Stadium.