Bulls look to Mendjiadeu, Tsineke late in win over Temple
Down the stretch of its 75-67 overtime win over Temple on Saturday, USF women’s basketball once again leaned on the duo of guard Elena Tsineke and forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu to close the game out.
Tsineke and Mendjiadeu, combined for 41 points and 12 rebounds. This follows Wednesday’s performance against Tulsa in which the two combined for 47 points.
Saturday was Tsineke’s ninth-consecutive game in which she scored in double-digits, finishing with 25, and it was Mendjiadeu’s fourth (16).
“I’m really happy that [coach Jose Fernandez is] beginning to trust me more and more,” Mendjiadeu said of being utilized in late-game situations. “Because in the beginning of the season I wasn’t really there, I think he kind of saw it but now he is much more confident in me.”
With the Bulls (14-5, 4-1 AAC) leading for much of the second half, the Owls (8-6, 3-1) battled down the stretch. USF held a two-point lead with 26 seconds remaining before a layup by Temple forward Mia Davis tied the game at 59 with seven seconds left to force overtime.
In overtime, USF outscored the Owls 16-8 behind 10-of-12 free-throw shooting led by Tsineke who made all eight of her attempts and scored 10 points in the extra period to seal the victory.
“I enjoy having the ball in my hands,” Tsineke said. “It’s not that I’m selfish or I don’t want to pass, it’s when I have the most confidence in me.”
Tsineke, along with the rest of the Bulls, got off to a slow start offensively and went down early, trailing the Owls 16-11 at the end of the first quarter and not taking back the lead until there was 1:28 remaining in the half.
USF shot just 4-of-17 from the field in the first quarter and 1-of-5 from three-point range. They steadily improved in the second going 5-of-10 thanks to the contributions of a lineup composed of mostly bench players and Mendjiadeu.
With starters Sydni Harvey, Bethy Mununga, Elisa Pinzan and Tsineke on the bench for a large portion of the second quarter, Fernandez looked to guards Mihaela Lazic, Aerial Wilson, Sara Guerreiro and forward Cristina Bermejo.
The lineup combined for 12 points in the quarter and gave the Bulls a 25-24 lead, their first since early in the first quarter.
“I think you look at this game, it’s what we did in the second quarter and what our bench did in the second quarter,” Fernandez said. “With Lazic, Guerreiro, Bermejo, [forward Patience] Williams, we played 11 guys in that second quarter, in the first half.
“We had some guys in foul trouble, playing without Bethy, but Dulcy playing 41 minutes, really proud of this group.”
Another bright sport for the Bulls was the fact that Mununga, who was limited to just 20 minutes in Wednesday’s victory against Tulsa, put on an impressive performance in a limited time on the floor.
Mununga, who’s been battling an achilles injury, according to Fernandez, put up 11 points on 7-of-14 shooting to go along with nine rebounds in just 22 minutes of action. She also notably grabbed her 800th career rebound in just 75 appearances with the Bulls.
“We had to play her,” Fernandez said. “Just because with her not on the floor, I didn’t want Temple to get out in front. And she’s playing games [while injured], so for us to get the minutes that she gave us in the second quarter were critical … But I thought incredible minutes on both ends of the floor.
“Again, 75 games, 800 rebounds. How many people have gotten 800 rebounds in 75 games?”
With Saturday’s victory, the Bulls improved to 7-0 when playing at the Yuengling Center this season. Protecting home court has always been one of the program’s points of emphasis, according to Fernandez.
“If you’re not going to take care of business at home, it’s gonna be really difficult for you to win,” he said. “This is where you practice and prepare everyday so there’s got to be passion in protecting the castle. Not letting somebody come in and beat you at home.
“I think we’ve had that mentality for a long time in our program.”
Next up the Bulls will hit the road to take on SMU at the Moody Coliseum in Dallas.
The Bulls will meet the Mustangs in a 8 p.m. tipoff streamed on ESPN+ and iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited 2.