USF blown out against UCF in first conference loss

Senior forward Bethy Mununga recorded her fourth consecutive double-double in USF’s 67-51 loss to UCF on Sunday. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

In a rematch of last season’s conference title game, No. 24 USF women’s basketball was dominated against UCF on Sunday, losing 67-51 in the season’s first War on I-4. 

USF (12-5, 2-1 AAC) was unable to get anything going on either end of the floor against a UCF team that led from the opening tip at Addition Financial Arena. The Knights (12-2, 4-0) opened an early 7-0 lead and never looked back, leading by as many as 23 points.

Coming into Sunday’s matchup, UCF boasted one of the nation’s best defenses, ranked third in the NCAA in scoring defense. The Knights held their opponents to just 48.5 and was once again elite against USF.

The Bulls struggled against UCF’s signature zone defense and press, turning it over eight times in the first quarter alone and finishing with 18 turnovers for the game. The Knights capitalized on those mistakes scoring 12 points off the turnovers.

USF managed to shoot just 32% from the field and 18% from three-point range in the first half as they went into the locker room down 15 points.

A strong fourth quarter in which the Bulls outscored the Knights 17-12, saw them cut the deficit to 10 with 2:38 remaining, but clutch-free throw shooting from the home team put the game out of reach.

Meanwhile, defensively, USF failed to slow down an unusually hot Knights’ offense that poured in 37 over the first two quarters, its highest-scoring first half of the season. 

UCF senior guards Diamond Battles and Tay Sanders gave the Bulls problems all afternoon combining for 37 points. They were joined in double-digits by junior guard Alisha Lewis, who finished with 12 points.

For the Bulls, senior forwards Bethy Mununga and Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu led the way offensively. Fankam finished with 14 points while Mununga scored 12 to go along with 11 rebounds for her fourth consecutive double-double.

Sophomore guard Elena Tsineke also had 12 points of her own.

The Bulls have already surpassed last season’s loss total, falling to the Knights in their last two regular-season games dating back to last year’s 58-45 defeat March 4.

They’ll look to bounce back at home Wednesday night as they take on Tulsa.

The Bulls will meet the Golden Hurricane in a 7 p.m. tipoff streamed on ESPN+ and iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.