With high expectations going into the 2021-22 season, the USF women’s basketball team (14-5, 3-1 AAC) has been a bit of a roller coaster through its first 19 games.
The Bulls played one of the toughest nonconference slates of any team in the country and opened some eyes as they took down a pair of then-top 10 ranked opponents in Oregon and Stanford.
As injuries have begun to plague some of the Bulls’ key players, they fell out of the Top 25 rankings for the first time this year following an ugly 67-51 loss to UCF on Jan. 16.
Although USF is currently far from the levels that it was reaching during the early parts of the season, it should still be seen as one of the favorites to once again win the conference title later this season.
Here’s a look at some of the best moments and players of the Bulls’ season thus far.
Midseason game of the year
USF beats No. 7 Stanford 57-54 (Nov. 26)
On the heels of its victory against then-ranked No. 9 Oregon, the Bulls took it up a notch and took down the reigning national champions, Stanford Cardinal, in dramatic fashion.
After looking like the superior team for much of the game, USF led by as many as 12 points before Stanford made a furious run in the fourth quarter to make it a back-and-forth affair over the final minutes of the game.
The Cardinal looked like they would steal the game away after Stanford’s Lexie Hull knocked down a three-pointer with nine seconds left to give her team a 54-52 lead.
USF guard Sydni Harvey had different plans, however. She knocked down a three of her own with three seconds remaining to give the Bulls the lead and ultimately end the game.
Harvey’s shot and the ending of this game was not just one of the best moments of the season, but one of the most memorable in program history.
Midseason heartbreak of the year
USF loses to No. 2 UConn 60-53 (Nov. 21)
While the 52-49 loss to Tennessee in Knoxville is a good option for this category, the history between USF and UConn is what makes this particular matchup more meaningful.
The Bulls and Huskies were conference rivals from 2005-20, and in that time USF never managed to win going 0-30 in their matchups against UConn. As a matter of fact, none of the previous games were even close, with UConn always winning by at least 10 points.
When the two teams met in November in the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament, the Bulls played the Huskies tighter than they ever have before.
USF was tied with UConn going into the fourth quarter but strong performances from reigning national player of the year Paige Bueckers and UConn freshman sensation Azzi Fudd pushed the Huskies past the Bulls for a seven point win.
As well as the Bulls played, they will have to wait for another day to take down their rivals.
Midseason surprise player
Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu
Anyone who watched Mendjiadeu play during her two seasons at Memphis is probably not surprised by the talent that she’s displayed since arriving at USF. What is surprising however, is how quickly she’s gelled with a team that returned all of last season’s starters.
Although she started off the year coming off the bench for the first eight games of the season as a backup to senior forward Shae Leverett, she finally broke into the starting lineup in a win against VCU on Dec. 12.
Since becoming a starter, Mendjiadeu has been an immediate spark giving the Bulls’ top-end offensive production down low in addition to her rim protection that she offers on the defensive end.
Mendjiadeu is currently in top form scoring double-digit points in four consecutive games including a 23-point performance against Tulane that matched her career high.
She will continue to be one of the Bulls most important players as they near postseason play.
Elena Tsineke and Sydni Harvey
With the amount of talent on the Bulls’ roster this season, there’s room for about three or four different players in this category. But the two players that likely have had the biggest impact on the Bulls season thus far are guards Tsineke and Harvey.
Tsineke is currently the team’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game and combined for 55 points in the Bulls’ past two wins against Tulsa and Temple.
She is likely the most skilled offensive player on the roster able to score efficiently at all three levels. Tsineke has also been one of the most clutch as coach Jose Fernandez will often look to her in late game situations.
Harvey, much like Tsineke, also has a propensity for heroics as she demonstrated in the victory against Stanford. While she ranks fourth on the team in scoring, she has been by far the team’s best shooter making 41.8% of her three-point attempts.
Even when she’s not at her best on the offensive end, one can always expect Harvey’s effort on defense as she’s consistently tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player and she does so at a high level.
Grade: B: While the Bulls had an impressive start to the season, their mediocre form of late has been costly and resulted in some poor performances.