To put Wednesday’s game into perspective, consider that the Bulls held the Cougars to just one basket through the opening 10 minutes.
The score was 18-2 USF, and then the Bulls went on a 14-0 run to round out the first quarter.
USF (13-8, 5-2) carried that momentum and never looked back in its 74-45 win over Houston (10-11, 3-4) at the Yuengling Center.
Momentum was the key to the win — USF never once gave up the lead. In fact, the lowest it got after the first quarter was 14, thanks to a made 3-pointer by Houston forward Dorian Branch to start the second.
After the third quarter, the lead never dropped below 24 points.
Freshman guard Elena Tsineke was a standout, leading all scorers with 20, tying her career high.
“We showed some great energy,” Tsineke said. “We picked it up from the beginning, so that helps us the most to run, to be offensive and doing good work, both on defense and offense.”
The Bulls were also consistent at the free-throw line. They went 12-of-15, with sophomore guard Sydni Harvey going 5-of-5.
Harvey is averaging 84 percent at the free-throw line this season and has proven to be crucial for USF. Her value comes in being able to shoot from anywhere on the court, according to junior forward Bethy Mununga.
“She can do whatever,” Mununga said. “It’s really helpful for us.”
Free throws in the win against Houston just padded the score.
Good free-throw shooting comes down to repetition and hard work in the gym, according to Mununga.
“Coach used to say, ‘There is no excuse to miss free throws,’” Mununga said. “We’re putting in extra work after practice. We’re shooting 50 free throws every day.”
There were some downsides to the big win, however. Freshman forward Kristyna Brabencova went down with a possible ankle injury at the end of the first quarter. Her official status is unknown, but she was on the bench with her ankle wrapped in the second half.
Another concern of coach Jose Fernandez is turnovers. The Bulls gave the ball away 17 times compared with Houston’s 14 turnovers.
Fernandez expressed his concern with USF’s turnovers, which has been a consistent issue all season. The Bulls average around 17.
“That’s just too many extra possessions for the other team,” he said.