Bulls’ late comeback falls short against No. 25 Temple

Forward Maria Jespersen's 26 points weren't enough against No. 25 Temple on Sunday, as USF lost 77-71 at the Sun Dome.

Since joining the AAC in 2013, USF had never lost consecutive conference games at home.

Until Now.

Playing in front of 2,281 at the Sun Dome on Sunday, No. 22 USF (20-6, 9-4) could not make the stops needed when they mattered most, falling to No. 25 Temple 77-71.

With 2:45 left to play, USF snagged a three-point lead off a traditional three-point play by junior Maria Jespersen, giving the Bulls their largest lead of the day.

Following Jespersen’s and-one, Temple (21-5, 11-2) launched an air ball on the ensuing possession, but the Bulls failed to capture the rebound. Temple then gathered the ball, kicked it out, and Feyonda Fitzgerald nailed her third 3-pointer of the game, to tie the game. 

That would be the last time USF had a taste of the lead.

“Up three, and we don’t get a defensive stop when we needed to,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “It was a long three from the left wing, and we didn’t block out. And that’s what it comes down to.

“You get the rebound there, you’re up three with the ball, and you’re shooting free throws down the stretch, and it doesn’t even get to that point.”

The Bulls shot 0-of-10 from behind the arc in the first half, while the Owls knocked down five of their attempts. 

Leading the way with 26 points and 11 rebounds, Jespersen said the Bulls lived and died by the three-ball a little too much, and needed to get in the paint more.

“It’s not us to go 0-of-10, I don’t think we’ve done that this year at all,” Jespersen said. “We can’t rely on just the three though, we have to get to the basket and draw some fouls.” 

The Bulls lackluster first-half performance wasn’t the only thing getting to Fernandez. The officials had some questionable calls, and no-calls in the first half, most of which went in favor of the Owls.

With 2:53 left to play in the first half, Fernandez couldn’t take anymore, and collected a technical foul. 

“I think the first and second halves were definitely officiated differently,” Fernandez said.

The loss on Sunday afternoon hurts USF’s chances of hosting a game in the NCAA tournament, as the Bulls now drop down to third in the AAC, and remain winless (0-3), against ranked opponents on the year. 

No. 22 USF, which could drop from the polls when the new rankings are released, will have a long way to go to host in the Tournament, as only the top 16 seeds serve as host sites for the first two rounds.

The Bulls look to avoid extending their losing streak when USF travels to take on Houston (10-16, 3-10) on Tuesday.