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Strong fourth quarter lifts Bulls over Cincinnati

Forward Bethy Mununga recorded her 11th double-double of the season in the Bulls win over Cincinnati on Wednesday night. She finished with 22 points and 15 rebounds. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

After three quarters of subpar play, the USF women’s basketball team used a dominant fourth quarter to help them surge past Cincinnati 54-45 at the Yuengling Center on Wednesday night.

The Bulls (18-7, 8-3 AAC) outscored the Bearcats (10-14, 3-9 AAC) 16-7 over the final 10 minutes and held their opponents to just 10% shooting from the field after allowing 15 points in the third quarter.

Coming off a tough loss to UCF on Sunday, coach Jose Fernandez liked the attitude his team came out with.

“I thought our kids had a lot more energy and joy playing the game,” he said. “You look at us defending and we’re doing a good job keeping people in front of us and rebounding. But you can only do that for so long.

“You have to be able to score and that’s the one side that we’re struggling [on].”

The Bulls once again labored to get much going on the offensive end as they shot 32% from the field and 29% from three-point range. They even struggled at the free-throw line going 16-of-27.

USF entered the fourth quarter tied at 38 following a buzzer beater from sophomore guard Elena Tsineke. The team took a 44-41 lead with 6:07 remaining in the game as part of an 11-0 run that all but secured the win for the Bulls.

“Once we got it to a two possession game, we just strung [together] stops,” Fernandez said. “We did a good job defending and rebounding.”

At the heart of that run was senior forward Bethy Mununga who finished with a game-high 22 points to go along with 15 rebounds, her 11th double-double of the season. 

She carried the load offensively late for USF, scoring nine of the team’s 16 fourth quarter points and getting to the free-throw line, converting 8-of-12 attempts.

She was also a menace on the defensive end securing a team-high four steals and a block.

“[Mununga] didn’t let that last game affect this game, so that’s on her,” Fernandez said. “I thought she defended, she was active on the glass, she was ready to go from the very beginning. But that’s not me, that’s not my staff, that’s her.”

Mununga’s performance comes after arguably her worst game as a Bull in the team’s loss to UCF in which she finished with five points and just two rebounds. She also ended the game with a -33 plus/minus.

She said Sunday’s loss lit a fire under her to come out with a big game on Wednesday.

“I was really disappointed of my performance last game,” Mununga said. “I was just motivated and it was kind of like my revenge.”

Following the blowout loss to the Knights, Mununga said the team regrouped and held each other accountable. Now, they are looking to only build upon this win as they get closer to the end of the season.

“After the [UCF] game in the locker room we could feel the tension,” she said. “We just tried to put on the table whatever needed to be said and I think that helped us because those two [following] days in practice we just tried to find each other again, work on the chemistry. 

“I mean the next important game was this one. Now is the next one which is Wichita and we’re just trying to build up from there.”

The Bulls will play Wichita State at the Yuengling Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.