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Puisis, Tsineke spark second-half comeback against Alabama

Junior guard Sammie Puisis and senior Elena Tsineke (pictured) combined for 48 of the Bulls’ 67 points in Wednesday night’s win over Alabama. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

After a slow first half, an offensive barrage after the break powered USF women’s basketball‘s 67-59 victory over Alabama at the Yuengling Center on Wednesday night.

While neither team could gain much of a lead in the first quarter, the Bulls (4-0) struggled to find their shot in the second, allowing the Crimson Tide (2-1) to end the first half up 29-23.

Momentum quickly shifted coming out of the break when South Florida went on a 10-0 run led by guards junior Sammie Puisis and senior Elena Tsineke, who combined for 18 of the Bulls’ 21 third-quarter points. Coach Jose Fernandez was happy with the way they played off of one another.

“[Sammie] did that in the third quarter [against Jacksonville]. I think these two guys compliment each other well,” he said. “Elena was a preseason player of the year in the league. She’s one of the best guards in the entire country and she showed it today, defending and on the offensive end. When those two guys are good, we’re really good.”

In the final quarter, Alabama shaved South Florida’s margin to as little as four points by the seven-minute mark. However, USF pulled away thanks to its strong second-half free-throw shooting.

A constant in the Bulls’ performance was their defense. They were tasked to stop Alabama guard Brittany Davis, who averaged 25 points per game going into Wednesday’s contest. Davis struggled against USF’s defense, ending the game with five points and only making one of nine field goal attempts.

“We were shifting our defense toward [Davis] to just get the ball out her hands and make sure she doesn’t get any uncontested shots,” Puisis said.

Junior guard Sammie Puisis leads the Bulls in scoring this season at 20 points per game. ORACLE PHOTO/ALEXANDRA URBAN

Puisis led the charge scoring a career-high 26 points — 24 of which came in the second half — and hitting five shots from the three. Tsineke had a similar run of her own in the final half, finishing the game with 21 points and four assists.

Also contributing was reigning AAC conference player of the week, senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendijadeu. The preseason all-AAC first-team member had eight points, 12 rebounds and played elite paint defense, ending the night with five blocks.

After Wednesday’s win, South Florida completed its four-game homestand undefeated for the first time in three seasons. Despite the early season success, the team is staying grounded and focused on preparing for its first road game of the year on Sunday in Fort Worth.

USF’s first road opponent is TCU, which is coming off the heels of a 75-48 loss to No. 13 North Carolina. However, the Horned Frogs are still a dangerous team with an ability to capitalize off of other teams’ mistakes, averaging around 18 points per game off of turnovers.

The Bulls plan on using the time before hitting the road to survey their upcoming matchup, according to Puisis.

“This is our first road trip, but we know it’s all business,” she said. “We’re going to lock in on our scout, get to know TCU and just bring our A game.”

South Florida returns to the Yuengling Center on Tuesday to take on New Hampshire at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and BullsUnlimited.