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Bulls home winning streak snapped against Tulane behind off shooting night

 

Senior forward Bethy Mununga recorded her ninth double-double of the season in Sunday’s loss to Tulane, finishing with 14 points and 13 rebounds. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF women’s basketball had one of its worst offensive performances of the season Sunday as the Bulls fell to Tulane 67-55 at the Yuengling Center. 

It was the program’s first loss at home this season, and the first since December 2020 against Baylor.

The Bulls (19-4, 12-2 AAC) found themselves in an early hole against the Green Wave (14-7, 5-4), trailing by 10 points at the end of the first quarter due to a slow offensive start. They shot just 3-of-18 from the field over the first 10 minutes and went 0-of-8 from three-point range.

They wound up shooting just 2-of-27 from beyond the arc, the worst mark of the year. USF came into the game as the second-best three-point shooting team in the conference making 32% of its attempts. 

Following a strong week of practice going into the matchup against Tulane, coach Jose Fernandez was shocked by how much his team struggled.

“We haven’t had one of these nights in a long time,” he said of the team’s shooting performance. “I can’t remember, it’s got to be 10-15 years [since] we shot the ball this poorly. That’s just not us.”

As the Bulls continued to struggle from deep, the Green Wave shrank their zone defense, making it harder for USF to get to the basket and find other forms of offense.

“If you’re not shooting the ball well, how are you going to score?” Fernandez said. “You got to score off of your defense, you got to score off the glass, you got to score off special situations, got to score free throws.

“But we couldn’t get it inside.” 

A 5-0 run to start the second half got USF within five points of the lead, but an inability to stop an explosive Tulane offense, which ranks second in the AAC in points per game, never allowed the Bulls to get any closer.

Down 13 early in the fourth quarter, the Bulls made one more big push, cutting the deficit to six with seven minutes remaining. However, costly turnovers down the stretch led to easy Green Wave offense and effectively put the game away.

USF finished with three scorers in double-digits led by sophomore guard Elena Tsineke with 18. She was joined by senior forwards Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu and Bethy Mununga who finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively.

Mununga, who recorded her ninth double-double of the season, was at the heart of the Bulls’ comeback effort late in the game. She believes defensive miscues were one of the main reasons the Bulls weren’t able to climb all the way back.

“I think that sometimes we pay more attention to certain guys, so we left other guys open and they just took advantage of that,” Mununga said. “They adjusted to our game, we needed to do the same thing, we didn’t.”

With the loss to Tulane, the upcoming games against Temple and UCF this week become increasingly crucial. The Bulls are now a game behind UCF in the race for the conference regular-season title.

As postseason play approaches, Fernandez knows the team can’t afford many more games like Sunday’s if they want to make it to the NCAA tournament.

“[We] get Temple and then it comes down to UCF. They got a loss, we got two losses [in conference play. But, tell you right now, we got to close out conference,” he said. “Come down to selection Monday, right now we’re playing for a seed, seed’s not looking too good after a loss like this.

“We got to continue to win games, it’s not a lock that we’re just in the NCAA tournament. Have been there too many times before on the wrong side of the bubble. They’ll find a way to keep you out because you don’t play in a football five league, trust me.”

The Bulls will meet Temple at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia on Wednesday in a 7 p.m. tipoff streamed on ESPN+ and iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited 2.