On a night mired with inconsistent shooting, a career performance from senior forward Ariadna Pujol was the constant that USF needed to defeat Jacksonville 64-52 on Monday night in the Sun Dome.
The Bulls (2-0) started the game on a 7-0 run that was capped off with the first of sophomore forward Kitija Laksa’s three 3-pointers against the Dolphins.
Coming out of a timeout, Jacksonville (2-2) would respond by going on an 8-0 run themselves. The Dolphins would grab a brief 8-7 lead on the Bulls, but that would be as close as JU would get, as USF would go on yet another run to lead Jacksonville 16-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Despite closing the frame with momentum on their side, the Bulls failed to pull away and led by only eight to their Atlantic Sun Conference opponent.
“Just seemed like we could never get up and down the floor,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said.
“That’s just not us. I think JU did a good job transition wise, taking some things away…but, we just have to have some more production from other guys.”
Leading the ASUN in scoring average with 19.7 points coming into its game with the Bulls, Jacksonville senior guard Sherranda Reddick was again the catalyst for the Dolphins’ offense.
The senior, who had 17 points in a 90-47 loss to No. 12 Florida State, led the way again for JU with 18 points before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Despite the streaky scoring for the Bulls as a whole, it was the consistency of Pujol that sparked the Bulls to a 12-point win.
Pujol, the only USF player to score in all four quarters, finished the night with a career-high 21 points to go with six rebounds and four assists.
“Mariah (Jespersen) and Kit (Laksa) were defended very well, so I had to step up a little bit because I know we needed someone to do that,” Pujol said.
Making a name for herself as a valuable defender early into her USF career, freshman forward Tamara Henshaw is beginning to establish herself as a regular in the Bulls’ rotation.
Debuting with 11 points and eight rebounds in a 78-42 win over North Florida, Henshaw backed up that opening night effort with another eight-rebound performance in 25 minutes against Jacksonville.
“I think for a freshman, two really really good games for her,” Fernandez said.
“I think she does a good job clogging the lane and defending and getting around. Her help-side defense is really good, and she plays with great energy and enthusiasm for a freshman. That’s why we started her in the second half.”
Following the win, the Bulls will spend the Thanksgiving holiday in the Bahamas, taking part in the Junkanoo Jam Tournament.
Beginning with a Thanksgiving Day matchup with perennial power North Carolina, the Bulls will round out the weekend with games against Georgia of the SEC and Minnesota of the Big 10.
The Bulls don’t return home until Nov. 30, when they host in-state rival Florida International.