Inexperience and poor shooting costs USF in loss to Houston

Enna Pehadzic led all scorers with 21 points in USF's loss to Houston on Sunday. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

In a game where both teams struggled to make baskets, USF women’s basketball lost to Houston 54-52 on Sunday at the Yuengling Center. The Bulls had their chance to tie the game with less than a minute to go when they failed to make two contested layups.

Houston took a six-point lead after Julia Blackshell-Fair hit a jumper in the paint with 1:15 to go, which was then countered by two free throws by Elisa Pinzan and a clutch 3-pointer by Enna Pehadzic to bring the Bulls within a possession with 18 seconds to go.

USF’s comeback effort came up short after Pinzan missed a contested shot with one second remaining and a desperation shot missed by Shae Leverett.

“We had a play that we know we wanted to run,” Pehadzic said. “With a lack of experience … I think we broke down, honestly.”

Without top players Kitija Laksa and Laura Ferreira, USF is left with a relatively inexperienced starting lineup.

“If you look at who’s on the floor there at the end of the game … you’ve got Pinzan — a freshman, [Luize] Septe — a freshman, Enna — who’s only played one year — as your three perimeter guys,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “Our two go-to guys are in street clothes. We just struggle to make plays down the stretch that we can throw it to somebody who can go get us a basket.”

USF outrebounded Houston by 11, but it was not able to capitalize on this advantage.

“There were plenty of rebounding opportunities, we just didn’t score,” Fernandez said.

Pehadzic led all scorers with 21 points and was the only USF scorer in double-digits. Despite Pehadzic’s hot game, the Bulls could not overcome their poor overall performance from the field, shooting just 30 percent.

While Pehadzic outscored Houston’s leading scorer, Blackshell-Fair, by four points, Houston’s offensive points were more evenly spread thanks to 17 points from Blackshell-Fair and 11 points from Octavia Barnes.

Defensively, Houston had three more steals than USF and four more blocks than USF. In addition to steals and blocks, Houston’s pressure disrupted the Bulls.

“I think their pressure bothered us,” Fernandez said. “We missed a lot of easy shots inside and in the paint that we didn’t finish for one reason or another.”

Instead of focusing on the intensities of the last few minutes of a game, as teams tend to do, Pehadzic chose to look at the bigger picture.

“Every possession matters and you always think of the last two or three minutes, but it actually comes down to what happens in the first or second quarter,” Pehadzic said. “We just got to keep doing what we can do in practices and not have mental breakdowns.”