Without top scorer Ferreira, short-handed Bulls fall to UCF

USF sophomore guard Enna Pehadzic battles a UCF defender on Jan. 8 at the Yuengling Center. Pehadzic recorded her second double-double of the season in the Bulls' 62-49 loss to the Knights. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB


Without its leading scorer, USF women’s basketball fell to UCF 62-49 on Tuesday in the Bulls’ first game at the Yuengling Center since Dec. 17. The loss marked USF’s first home loss since Jan. 6, 2018.

The already short-handed Bulls, down to 10 active players prior to Tuesday, were without senior wing Laura Ferreira, who was held out due to an unspecified illness.

While coach Jose Fernandez did not specify what was wrong with Ferreira, he said he does not expect her back anytime soon.

“I don’t anticipate having Laura back right now,” Fernandez said. “It’s much bigger than basketball right now with her.”

All nine healthy players saw action for USF, though only sophomore guard Enna Pehadzic was on the floor for all 40 minutes.

“Right now, we’re playing without our three best players — that’s 45 — 50 points out of the lineup. That’s a lot,” Fernandez said. “[Kitija] Laksa, Ferreira and [Beatriz] Jordao. That’s a lot. Right now, a lot of our young kids are getting a lot of experience. Five of the nine are freshmen.”

UCF led for most of the game, but was unable to pull away until late in the second half. The Bulls rallied to cut what was an eight-point UCF lead with 8:09 to go to a two-point deficit with 4:38 remaining in the game. The Knights then went on a 12-1 run to end the game.

Pehadzic recorded her second double-double of the season, scoring 16 points and collecting 10 rebounds. The Denmark native took a season-high 14 three-point attempts, matching the number of treys attempted by the other eight active Bulls.

“Coach just said, ‘We can’t be scared to shoot the three — we’ve got to want to shoot the ball,’” Pehadzic said. “I can’t control if it goes in or not — I can only control shooting it when it’s right and do what coach tells me.”

While the Bulls shot 28 percent from the field and 25 percent from three-point range, the most important stat to Fernandez was his team’s giveaways. USF turned the ball over 22 times, the second-highest number of turnovers the Bulls have allowed all season.

“I think the biggest stat of the night was our unforced turnovers,” Fernandez said. “Points off of turnovers, it was 29-10.”

Things won’t get any easier from here for the Bulls, as the injury-riddled team travels to Storrs, Connecticut, to take on No. 3 UConn on Sunday afternoon. The Huskies have never lost a conference regular-season game since the formation of the AAC in 2013.