Pehadzic and Septe set new career highs in Bulls’ third straight loss

Luize Septe (left) and Enna Pehadzic set new career-highs in scoring Wednesday night in USF's 57-56 loss to Cincinnati. Septe also set a new career-high in assists.  ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

Despite standout performances from Enna Pehadzic and Luize Septe, USF women’s basketball was narrowly defeated by Cincinnati 57-56 on Wednesday night at the Yuengling Center.

The Bulls lost their third game in a row and their second consecutive loss by less than three points, however, a career-high in points by Pehadzic in a game and a resurgent Septe in the second half were the two silver linings.

Individual performances were not enough to secure the win, however, as a relatively low field goal percentage of 38.5 percent and free-throw percentage of 50 percent plagued the Bulls throughout the game.

“We were the leading free-throw shooting team in the league three weeks ago,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “Now, we’ve shot under 50 percent at the free-throw line.”

Fernandez is calling for the team to make its free throws. He doesn’t attribute the problem to the team’s mentality and is baffled over the team’s dip in the free-throw department.

“We’ve made [free throws] all year and all the sudden we’re not making them,” Fernandez said. “You have to step up there and make your free throws. There’s nobody guarding you. It’s not hard.”

With injuries to Alyssa Rader, Silvia Serrat, Kitija Laksa, Beatriz Jordao and Laura Ferreira, the Bulls have had to reshuffle the lineup to account for the absences. Fernandez is convinced that experience isn’t the issue with free-throw and field goal conversion.

“I’m not going to attribute [the low field goal percentage] to lack of experience,” Fernandez said. “We’ve had a lot of young kids play in our program … we’re playing everybody’s healthy lineup. You have to come out and close up these games.”

In spite of the loss, Septe was a star performer throughout the game, especially after returning to the game in the second half after a nose injury scare late in the first half. Septe, who arrived at USF only four weeks ago from Latvia, scored 10 points and registered eight assists Wednesday.

“It just takes a bit of time for [Septe] to get her feet under her but, I though she did some very good things today,” Fernandez said. “I liked the way she attacked the basket. Her best basketball is ahead of her.”

Pehadzic also had a notable performance Wednesday after she broke her personal record for points scored in a game with 22. She also tied her career record for 3-pointers with five. Despite her field-goal percentage at 30 percent, Pehadzic made up for her lack of accuracy with a high field goals attempted, which secured her broken record.

“I was just trying to put back what happened in the last couple games and just come back and help my team,” Pehadzic said. “I wanted to be aggressive right from the start.”

Pehadzic is optimistic about future games and thinks the team is taking a step in the right direction.

“We just have to value every possession,” she said. “We’re working hard, we just have to stay together. It’s just a matter of when everything is gonna click.”

Fernandez looks to improve on the recent results and looks to their game against UCF on Sunday.

“I think our effort is there,” he said. “We just have to make sure we don’t break down mentally on both ends of the court.”