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Bulls look to bounce back against Tulsa

USF senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu led the Bulls in scoring with 14 points in the loss against UCF on Sunday. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Following its worst loss of the season at the hands of UCF on Sunday, USF women’s basketball will look to get back on track as they continue conference play against Tulsa on Wednesday.

The Bulls (12-5, 2-1 AAC) welcome the Golden Hurricane (12-2, 2-1 AAC) to the Yuengling Center for their first home game since Dec. 29 against Jacksonville.

USF dropped out of the AP Top 25 rankings for the first time this season after the 67-51 defeat to the Knights. The Bulls were ranked among the best squads in the nation since the preseason and reached as high as No. 13 in the fourth week of the season.

USF has already lost more games in 2021-22 than they did over the entirety of last year (4).

After finishing in the bottom half of the conference last season, the Golden Hurricane are off to an impressive start under first-time coach Angie Nelp. 

Tulsa’s program has seen a vast improvement under Nelp, who has already helped the team surpass last season’s win total of five games, four of which came in conference play.

Against Tulsa, the Bulls will look to take much better care of the basketball than they did Sunday when they turned the ball over a season-high 19 times, which directly led to 12 UCF points.

Unfortunately for coach Jose Fernandez’s team, the Golden Hurricane are one of the best in the conference in turnover margin. They have a +4.79 turnover margin, second in the AAC, forcing an average of 16 turnovers per game.

They are also the top-ranked team in the AAC in assist/turnover ratio.

In addition to ball security, the Bulls have to try to stop a Tulsa offense that tops the conference in multiple statistical categories this season. 

The Golden Hurricane rank as the best team in scoring offense, averaging 74.7 points per game, as well as scoring margin (+13.6), field goal percentage (45.1%) and three-point percentage (40.7%).

They are led by a trio of double-digit scorers in Wyvette Mayberry, who’s averaging 14.1 points per game, Temira Poindexter (11.9) and Rebecca Lescay (10). 

Freshman guard Delanie Crawford has also made an immediate impact in her short career averaging nine points and five rebounds per contest.

Mayberry returns to Tulsa following a superb freshman season last year in which she was named to the AAC All-Freshman Team after averaging 12.3 points and 3.5 rebounds. She recently tied her career-high 24 points in Tulsa’s win against East Carolina on Jan. 11.

Where the scales start to tip in USF’s favor are in their experience, defense and rebounding.

With the exception of senior guards Maddie Bittle and Lecsay, most of Tulsa’s starting five is composed of first or second-year players.

Meanwhile, USF’s entire starting five is made up of players who have played at least three years of college basketball, including two fifth-year players in forwards Bethy Mununga and Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu.

Both Mununga and Mendjiadeu will be key for the Bulls if they are going to come out on top against Tulsa as they are at the heart of USF’s defensive and rebounding efforts.

USF is the top-ranked team in the AAC in defensive rebounding, third in rebounding margin and sixth in offensive rebounding, all of which rank ahead of Tulsa. Mununga leads the charge for the Bulls grabbing 11.8 boards per game with Mendjiadeu ranking second on the team with 6.4.

The two forwards have been on a bit of a tear over USF’s last few games, leading the team in scoring and rebounding in their Jan. 12 win against Tulane and the loss against UCF.

In order to exploit Tulsa’s weaknesses, expect a healthy serving of Mununga and Mendjiadeu throughout the contest.

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