Flores battles through injury in comeback win

Despite missing the first half with a right ankle sprain, sophomore Laia Flores helped USF to a comeback win over East Carolina. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/JACKIE BENITEZ

No. 22 USF women’s basketball found itself in yet another tight contest Wednesday night, before coming back in the second half to defeat East Carolina 76-66 in Greenville, North Carolina.

Trailing at halftime to ECU 39-37, the Bulls needed to make an adjustment to avoid losing back-to-back games for the first time this season. That’s where sophomore Laia Flores came in. 

Though the starting point guard missed the first half with a right ankle sprain she suffered in the Bulls’ 62-57 loss at Memphis on Sunday, she played the entire second half.

And despite not making much of an impact on the stat sheet, coach Jose Fernandez said her presence on the court is essential to the Bulls’ success.

“That just shows how tough that kid is,” Fernandez said. “She wanted to give it a go and did a great job… We’re a different team without Laia Flores on the floor and we saw that today.”

Leading scorer Kitija Laksa led USF offensively, scoring a game-high 34 point on 14-of-22 shooting. 

With the win, USF (19-4, 8-2) remains in second place in the AAC, trailing only No. 1 UConn. The Bulls return home Sunday when they host Tulane at noon at the Sun Dome. 

Bulls blown out as losing skid continues

Once again, USF men’s basketball entered halftime against UConn within striking range. But, once again, the Bulls eventually found themselves on the wrong side of a blowout Wednesday night, losing 97-51 in Storrs, Connecticut. 

Though USF trailed 40-30 at the half, the Bulls allowed 57 points in a disastrous second half in which UConn shot 10-of-12 on 3-point attempts. 

“We got off to a bad start, but played phenomenal over the last eight minutes (of the first half) and had a lot of momentum,” interim coach Murry Bartow said. “We just had a terrible start to the second half. I give a lot of credit to UConn – they played well and made a lot of threes.”

Though the lopsided halves certainly stand out, it’s nothing new for USF. The Bulls trailed UConn by two at halftime in their Jan. 25 matchup, but wound up losing by 20 points. 

The Bulls (6-17, 0-12) will continue their search for their first conference win when they host East Carolina at the Sun Dome on Saturday. 

Report: Strong hires assistant coach

Shortly after recruiting three players from state champion Miami Carol City, coach Charlie Strong continues to mine the school for talent. 

J.T. Wilcox of CBS Miami reported Wednesday that Strong has hired Carol City defensive coordinator Damon Cogdell to the 2017 staff. 

Previously, Cogdell coached as a co-defensive line coach at West Virginia. Cogdell will likely assume the open position of defensive line coach at USF, leaving just one position left for Strong to fill.