Full-strength Bulls too much for Tulane

The next home game for USF on March 2 will serve as senior night for Bethy Mununga and Shae Leverett. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

A fully healthy USF women’s basketball team returned to the court for the first time in over a month and had a strong showing in a 78-69 win over the visiting Tulane Green Wave on Saturday. 

The Bulls have been short-staffed since coming back from their monthlong hiatus caused by COVID-19-related issues. Sophomores Maria Alvarez, Cristina Bermejo, Kristyna Brabencova and Elena Tsineke were all unavailable against Tulsa on Feb. 13 due to COVID-19 protocols.

Each player had to pass a blood test, stress test and an echogram in addition to seeing the team doctor and complete a 10-day isolation period before being allowed to step back onto the floor.

In the following game against Cincinnati on Feb. 17, three of the four players returned with the exception of Tsineke.

She didn’t return to the court until Saturday’s game against Tulane. The sophomore dropped 13 points in just 19 minutes and appeared to not miss a beat. 

“[Tsineke] can get to the rim, she can get to the basket, she can get to the free throw line, she can break people down off the dribble,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “Now when you have her in the basketball game with Sydni Harvey, you now have two guys you have to guard at the arc and you also have to keep them in front of you.” 

In addition to Tsineke, senior forward Bethy Mununga had another impressive performance. 

Mununga finished with 17 points and 17 rebounds before fouling out, her eighth double-double of the season. 

Fernandez spoke highly of Mununga’s role both on and off the court. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of her,” Fernandez said. “I thought she had a really, really good offseason. I think the two seniors we have are unbelievable in the locker room, on the floor and in practice.

“This has been a tough year. My biggest thing as soon as the season’s over is that the two most important people I have to recruit are [Mununga] and Shae [Leverett] to come back.”  

Fernadez also recognized the need for a regroup considering the monthlong break. 

Despite winning a record 12 straight games, the team is still striving to reach the levels that they attained prior to the break. 

“I think it’s going to take a few more games, we’ve been out for a little while, but just being back, you never want to take that for granted, being able to play, so I think everybody just takes it game by game,” Harvey said.

The Bulls have four regular-season games left to play, with a two game road trip at Temple and Houston, before returning home to see rival UCF once at home and once on the road. 

Next up for USF is a Feb. 24 matchup against Temple with tipoff set for 3:30 p.m.

The game against the Owls will be televised on ESPN+ and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.