Notebook: USF routs ECU 80-44 in first round of AAC Tournament

Forward Maria Jespersen lead the way for USF with a game-high 23 points and shot 8-for-16 from the field. ORACLE PHOTO/CHAVELI GUZMAN

For the fifth straight season, second-seeded USF is headed to the AAC Tournament’s semi-finals after routing seventh-seeded ECU 80-44 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

The Bulls limited the Pirates to 31 percent shooting from the field, while shooting 53 percent from the field themselves leading to their most lopsided AAC Tournament victory in program history.

Forward Maria Jespersen lead the way for USF with a game-high 23 points and shooting 8-for-16 from the field, while guard Kitja Laksa finished the game with five of USF’s nine three-pointers and 21 points.

“Defensively, they only had 22 at the half and then that third quarter, we really got out and ran,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “Our wings sprinted and we got some really good rim runs.”

Helping dish the ball to Jespersen and Laksa was point guard Laia Flores, who finished with a game-high nine assists.

“Laia sets the table for us,” Fernandez said of the Spaniard. “I think she doesn’t get the recognition in this country on the job that she does. A lot of people look at how many points, how many rebounds, but she just finds people. When our wings run and our posts rim run, she does a great job of getting the ball where the ball needs to get to. I thought in transition, that third quarter was fun to watch.”

Next up for USF is a semi-final matchup against UCF, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, at 4:30 p.m. on Monday.



Baseball swipes 3-of-4 against Columbia


Outside of a one-run loss Saturday to Columbia (1-7), the Bulls dominated the Lions over the weekend, outscoring them 37-to-11 and winning three out of the four-game series.

Before facing USF, Columbia had lost its first four games of the season and would still be winless if not for a three-run, final inning comeback against the Bulls on Saturday afternoon, which gave them a 4-3 victory.

The Bulls (7-5) immediately responded to the loss later Saturday night, shutting out the Lions in the second-half of a doubleheader for an 8-0 win behind Alec Wisely’s six scoreless innings pitched and 11 hits as a team. Four Bulls had multiple hits in the second game.

“We played well in all three phases of the game,” coach Billy Mohl said Saturday. “Pitching was good, the offense stayed patient and was able to do some damage to pitches up in the zone.”

On Sunday and Friday, the Bulls’ bats produced thirteen runs in each game, with the Bulls winning easily 13-1 Friday and 13-6 Sunday.

Though they dominated from wire-to-wire against the Lions on Friday, the Bulls trailed in the fifth inning on Saturday, 6-5. The Bulls would then tie the game up in the bottom of the fifth when a Tyler Dietrich single scored JD Dutka from second.

The Bulls went on to score three more runs in the bottom half of the seventh and eighth innings, winning the game and series. The Bulls are now 24-1-1 in non-conference home series since 2012.

Next up for USF is an away game against Jacksonville (7-4) on Wednesday at 6 p.m.


Softball sweeps Under Armour Invitational 


Entering the Under Armour Invitational at USF Softball Stadium, USF had lost eight of its last 10 games, with both of its two wins coming against Fordham (4-11).

Over the weekend, however, USF (11-12) won all four of its Under Armour Invitational games, beating Wisconsin 3-1, Western Michigan 6-5, Central Michigan 4-3 and Penn 8-0.

In the Invitational, the bat of sophomore third baseman Brooke Hartman led the way for USF as she knocked a hit in seven of her 10 at-bats, finishing the weekend with five runs and five RBI.

“The ball must look like a balloon to her now,” coach Ken Eriksen said Saturday. “We were down 3-0 today and Brooke sparked us, and we were down 2-0 yesterday and Brooke sparked us. She is a big part of what is happening right now.”

Two of Hartman’s seven hits were home runs, her firsts of the season.

“I feel a lot calmer,” Hartman said. “I just see the ball better, and I know my team is right behind me and all the pressure isn’t on me because the whole team is hitting well.”

Also hitting well on the weekend was USF’s Lindsey Devitt, who had a .583 average in 12 at-bats with seven hits and a team-high six RBI. Six Bulls had four or more hits over the weekend.

USF will take on Seton Hall for a midweek game Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The game will be aired live on