Women’s basketball overcomes quiet start to defeat Jacksonville

Senior center Dulcy Fankam Mendijadeu scored a team-high 25 points in USF’s win over Jacksonville on Sunday. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF women’s basketball erased an early eight-point deficit to defeat Jacksonville University 70-59 on Sunday afternoon at the Yuengling Center.

After starting the game down 9-1, senior center Dulcy Fankam Mendijadeu provided five first-quarter points to cut the Dolphins’ lead down to two. South Florida carried that momentum into the second quarter, outscoring the Dolphins by 13 points to take a 31-20 lead into halftime.

The Bulls’ offense continued to come alive in the third quarter, as consecutive three-pointers from junior guard Sammie Puisis helped South Florida open a 17-point lead over Jacksonville.

A series of offensive turnovers and missed layups allowed Jacksonville cut the Bulls’ lead down to eight. However, following a timeout by head coach Jose Fernandez, Mendijadeu dropped 13 fourth-quarter points to help South Florida close out the game.

“They wouldn’t go away and we had to score out of a timeout on a baseline out-of-bounds play,” Fernandez said. “It was good for us, but we have to rebound and defend a lot better than we did today.”

One game after a career-high 26 points, Mendijadeu led the Bulls with 25 points and 10 rebounds for her second double-double in three games. The fifth-year center has dominated the paint this season, with an average of 21 points and nine rebounds a game.

Fernandez attributes Mendijadeu’s improvement from last season to her increased patience around the basket.

“Jacksonville did a good job doubling her and I thought she split through some of the doubles and was patient in the paint and finished around the paint,” Fernandez said.

Puisis added 14 points, including 12 points from three-point range. The Florida State transfer has accounted for more than half of the team’s three-pointers this season. She is also the Bulls’ second-leading scorer at 18 points a game.

South Florida is now 3-0 for the first time since the 2019-20 season. The Bulls will carry an average margin of victory of 32.7 points into a meeting with Alabama, who are led in scoring by graduate student guard Brittany Davis.

“We’re going to have to guard a special player on that team — she’s really, really good,” Fernandez said. “They got pieces all over the floor and we’re going to have to do a good job containing the dribble, guarding the arc, and taking care of the ball.”

USF women’s basketball will return to the Yuengling Center on Wednesday to take on Alabama. Tip off is scheduled for 7 p.m. The game will be livestreamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on BullsUnlimited.