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Women’s basketball falls to UConn in regular season finale

Forward Maria Jespersen going up for a layup against Ohio State on Sunday. Against UConn, Jespersen scored 12. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

It could’ve been worse.

USF had never beaten No. 1 UConn (29-0, 16-0) entering Monday night’s regular season finale against the Huskies in Storrs, Connecticut and the same held true after 40 minutes of play, with USF (24-6, 13-3) falling 82-53.

Though a 29-point defeat can look bad on the surface, it was still a step up from the Bulls’ last game against the Huskies, where they fell 100-49 in front of a record home crowd of 6,659 at the Sun Dome on Jan. 6. 

For USF, which had already locked up the AAC’s No. 2 seed entering Monday’s tilt, its performance likely did little to help its seeding for the NCAA Tournament, but, at the same time, did little to hurt it.

Before the NCAA Tournament begins, however, USF will play in the AAC Tournament, which starts Saturday. The Bulls reached the tournament’s final the past three seasons, but lost to UConn every time. 

"We've got to continue to work and get ready to go to (The AAC Tournament) Mohegan and play a lot better,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “Hopefully we'll get an opportunity to play these guys again."

After keeping it tight in the game’s early minutes, the Huskies used a 13-0 run to break open a 10-8 game, ending the first quarter with a 29-12 lead. A 12-0 Huskies run in the second quarter put the game out of reach completely for the Bulls.

"The last four minutes of the first quarter, that's what hurt us and points off of turnovers,” Fernandez said. “I think we battled a lot better tonight. But what hurt us coming out of those media timeouts the first, second and third quarters, they went on those little runs.”

The Bulls’ leading scorer, forward Kitja Laksa, who entered Monday averaging 21 points a game, went 5-of-9 from the field, scoring none of her 14 points in the first half.

Having earned a first-round bye in the AAC Tournament, No. 2 USF will face the winner of No. 10 SMU (10-19, 4-12) and No. 7 ECU (15-4, 7-9) at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. The game will be aired on ESPNU.

Should the Bulls defeat the Pirates/Mustangs, they would move onto the tournaments semifinals, playing at 4:30 p.m. Monday. Should they reach the final, they’ll play — likely UConn — at 5 p.m. Tuesday, with the game being televised on ESPN2. All of the tournaments games will be played in Connecticut.