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Injury bug affecting Bulls early in conference play

USF senior forward Bethy Mununga has been limited due to an Achilles injury over the Bulls’ last few games. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After being relatively injury-free over the course of its title-winning season, the USF women’s basketball team has been battling ailments through the early portion of its conference schedule.

The Bulls (14-5, 4-1 AAC) have sustained injuries to multiple key players in recent weeks including guards Maria Alvarez and Sydni Harvey and forward Bethy Mununga, among others. 

Each of the players have seen a decrease in minutes over the past few games due to their respective medical issues.

The injuries have correlated with a drop in performance that has kept the Bulls from reaching the heights from earlier in the season when they took down a pair of ranked teams in Stanford and Oregon.

Following a close win against Tulsa on Wednesday, coach Jose Fernandez acknowledged the drop-off the team has experienced due to the situation.

“We’re not a good basketball team right now,” he said in a postgame press conference. “We got beat up in a lot of different areas. We got hit by COVID. A lot of guys didn’t practice. We had guys coming back from COVID. Bethy and [Harvey] didn’t practice the last two days. We got guys that aren’t practicing.

“We’re trying to rest them because of their injuries, but you lose flow. You lose feel and that’s where we’re at.”

While it remains unclear what injury Harvey is facing, her production has dropped off in the past month. She’s shooting just 18% dating back to USF’s matchup against Jacksonville on Dec. 29.

Harvey’s averages have taken a dip as well. She was averaging 12.6 points per game prior to the Jacksonville game. That number has now dropped to 9.4 over the past six games.

Alvarez suffered her injury during the second quarter against Tulsa, when she took a hard fall on the baseline and had to be pulled from the game. Fernandez confirmed that she entered the concussion protocol.

She would go on to miss Saturday’s matchup against Temple but her status for future games is unknown as of Monday.

Mununga, who is currently averaging a double-double and leads the team in rebounds, is battling an Achilles injury, according to Fernandez. She played just 20 minutes against Tulsa and 22 against Temple, two of her lowest totals of the season.

Despite the strain the injuries have had on his lineups and rotation as of late, Fernandez said the impetus is still on him and his staff to put together a game plan that gives the team the best chance to win.

“I don’t know if [the injury situation] is going to get better, or it’s going to get worse before it gets better,” he said. “We just got to do a great job as coaches to put these guys in the best [position to succeed].”