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Bulls return to the floor with win over Tulsa

The USF women’s basketball team returned to action on Saturday night. Despite being shorthanded, the team picked up right where they left off before the hiatus. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

The No. 14 USF women’s basketball team (11-1, 8-0 AAC) defeated Tulsa (5-9, 4-9 AAC) 67-46 on Saturday in the first game back off a 31-day hiatus.

The victory marks 10 consecutive wins for the Bulls, a program record.

The month-long pause was caused by COVID-19-related issues, but any potential rust the Bulls may have accrued during that time was quickly brushed off.

After finishing the first quarter up 17-12, USF began clicking on offense and turned up the pressure on defense, ultimately wrapping up the first half up 13 points and ending the night with a 21-point advantage.

If the blowout win off of such an extended break wasn’t impressive enough, the Bulls were able to do it without some of their key players.

Sophomores Maria Alvarez, Elena Tsineke, Cristina Bermejo and Kristyna Brabencova were all unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols. Alvarez, Bermejo and Brabencova were on the bench not in uniform, and Tsineke was not in attendance.

Coach Jose Fernandez said each player must pass a series of tests before being allowed to come back to the court.

“We had three [players] today that you saw dressed on the bench, so they’ve passed their 10 days, where they had to isolate for 10 days, and now they got to go through testing to come back,” Fernandez said in the postgame press conference. “You got to go through a blood test, you got to go through a stress test, you got to go through an echogram, so for them to return and participate, and of course see our team doctor.

“Elena Tsineke was not there tonight, she will be with us tomorrow, back with us, but she’s got to go through her testing starting on Monday.”

In the absence of those playmakers, the Bulls relied heavily on the veteran presence of Elisa Pinzan, Bethy Mununga and Sydni Harvey, as well as a nice boost from redshirt freshman Mihaela Lazic in her first career start.

Lazic dropped a career-high 10 points and was not shy in being aggressive and asserting herself throughout the game, something that she credits her team and coaching staff for.

“Honestly, first of all my teammates and the coaching staff, they showed me that they could trust me, and that’s what gave me confidence,” she said. “I realized…we don’t have the whole roster, we were missing four people, then I realized I got to step up, this is my time, and let me show everyone that they can trust me.”

Lazic’s 10 points in conjunction with 13 from Pinzan, 14 from Harvey and 19 from Mununga helped the Bulls secure the victory.

The next game for the Bulls is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Feb. 17, where they are set to take on the Cincinnati Bearcats at home.