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Bulls finding new identity in season opening win

USF coach Jose Fernandez and the new-look Bulls won their season opener against North Florida by 36 points on Tuesday night in the Sun Dome. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

Life after the graduation of guard Courtney Williams and forward Alisia Jenkins began Tuesday night in the Sun Dome for USF women’s basketball with a 78-42 defeat of North Florida.

Without the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder in Williams and Jenkins respectively, the Bulls (1-0) came out shooting only 12-of-32 from the field in the 1st half.

Despite an underwhelming shooting performance in the first twenty minutes, USF doubled up the Ospreys 36-18 at halftime thanks to strong performance in the paint for senior center Katelyn Weber.

“Tonight, coach really stressed we need to rebound more, so I just made that my priority for the night,” Weber said.

Complimenting the play of Weber in the post was freshman forward Tamara Henshaw, who finished with eight rebounds and 11 points in her USF debut.

“I’m relieved that I finally got the first game out of me,” Henshaw said.

“All the nerves are gone, and I’m happy because I’m here and I couldn’t ask for a better team.”

Notwithstanding a slow shooting start, the Bulls did see a promising night from returning AAC Freshman of the Year, sophomore guard Kitija Laksa.

Showing no signs of the ankle injury that sidelined her at the end of her freshman campaign, Laksa led USF with 18 points in 33 minutes.

Fighting off a lingering injury from last season as well, forward Laura Ferreira dressed and played nine minutes before two quick fouls led to a trip to the bench.

“Just wanted to get her a little bit of time,” Fernandez said.

“We’ve been using her limited in practice, and just wanted to get her up and down the floor. She picked up two fouls in the first 30 seconds, so she was really excited. But, it was good to get her some time.”

The Bulls are back in action Monday when they host Jacksonville at 7 p.m. in the Sun Dome.