Newcomers shine in Bulls’ season-opening rout of Jacksonville

Bethy Mununga (20) and Maria Alvarez (1) were standouts for USF in its season-opening win Tuesday. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

Junior Enna Pehadzic was the primary shooter for USF women’s basketball last season.

But the Bulls’ 70-39 rout of Jacksonville in the season opener at the Yuengling Center on Tuesday night showed points can come from other playmakers.

While Pehadzic made up the bulk — she registered 20 points and shot 6-of-9 from 3-point range — junior Bethy Mununga and freshman Maria Alvarez both scored double digits with 11 each.

“It definitely is more freeing when you have other people that can score too,” Pehadzic said.

Mununga, a junior college transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M, registered a double-double with 11 points and 12 rebounds in her first game with the Bulls.

“She has the potential to be a double-double guy day in and day out, just because of how active she is and how she ran runs,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “It was great to see her do what she did today.”

Mununga, however, was nervous for her first outing in a USF jersey.

“I was very nervous because in junior college, yes, we do have a crowd but not as big as here,” she said. “My coaches and teammates told me, ‘Just be you, do what you can do best. … Just play and have fun.’”

Jacksonville coach Darnell Haney didn’t expect Mununga to be as physical as she was in the paint.

“She’s stronger than I thought she was,” Haney said.

Alvarez, the other newcomer who stood out, kept up with the pressure of her first college game, shooting more than 41 percent from the field with five assists. 

Her offensive performance was almost expected from Fernandez.

“That’s what she does,” Fernandez said. “She’s a freshman who’s got a lot of experience and she got some really good looks at the basket. 

“She just can’t turn the basketball over like she did today. She had five of our 17.”

On top of turnovers, Fernandez was left wanting more from the defense, especially in the first half. 

The Bulls held the Dolphins to five points through the first quarter. At halftime, the score was 54-34.

“One glaring thing for us — we didn’t close the first half defensively like we should have,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez was also critical of the Bulls’ 8-of-18 performance at the free-throw line.

“That’s inexcusable. That’s not us.”

Issues hidden by the scoreline won’t be so forgiving when the Bulls take on No. 15 Texas on Friday, according to Fernandez.

“The talent level we’re going to play on Friday is going to be a lot different,” he said. “We’re going to have to be a lot different Friday.”