Junior guard Sammie Puisis scored a career-high of 28 points in Saturday’s game against Tulane as USF women’s basketball notched their 10th straight win at the Yuengling Center this season.
Her performance aided the Bulls (16-4, 5-0 AAC) in defeating the Green Wave (11-7, 1-4 AAC) 66-53. Most of Puisis’ points occurred in the third quarter due to her superior three-point shooting. Puisis produced 13 points in the period and also tied her career-high of six three-pointers in one game.
Puisis said she felt her teammates found her in the right places in the open court which allowed her to find her shooting rhythm.
“I think what worked tonight was just pushing in transition,” Puisis said. “That’s where my teammates were able to find me and I was able to knock down shots.”
A few of the Bulls’ wins this season have played out in a similar fashion to Saturday. Their opening half performance gets stifled by poor shooting or ball handling, only to then improve drastically in the closing half.
In the first half, USF shot 33% on their field goal attempts but bumped it to 53% in the second.
The Bulls also took better care of the basketball and improved their rebounding coming out of the break. USF cut its first-half turnover total from seven to four in the second half. It doubled its total rebounds from 11 in the first to 23 in the second.
Senior guard Elena Tsineke finished the game with 14 points. Tsineke stepped up her game in the second half after finding trouble making shots in the first half.
Tsineke, despite only shooting 36% from the field on Saturday, has been on a scoring tear as of late averaging 19.2 points over her last five games.
“I feel when I put in extra work, it just gives me more confidence,” Tsineke said. “I feel like it’s always gonna translate in my game, just because of how many reps I put in.”
Coach Fernandez has spoken highly of Tsineke’s work ethic. He attributes her desire to get better and the willingness to put in the extra reps as the reason behind the season she has been having.
There is a reason why these two are having the senior year they are having individually. Which in turn drives team success. We have film at 2 and shootaround after that for our game at 7 tonight. @ETsineke @DulcyMendjiadeu pic.twitter.com/7Lr0VycQmG
— Jose Fernandez (@CoachJFernandez) January 14, 2023
This same drive paid off in Saturday’s game, as Tsineke was relentless on the offensive glass and got in the paint for easy layups. Her three offensive rebounds all came in a singular possession early in the second half.
South Florida also got strong contributions from two of its other starters in senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu and freshman wing Carla Brito.
Mendjiadeu was held to only seven field goal attempts, a rare occurrence for her this season and a byproduct of Tulane’s low post defense. In spite of this, she played a pivotal role in helping USF win the rebound battle, finishing with a double-double of 10 points and 16 rebounds.
Brito totaled 12 points for the game, performing a string of layups in transition in the second half.
Saturday’s win pushed USF to 10-0 at home, its best stretch in the Yuengling Center since the 2020-21 season. Fernandez said he believes that any sign of a great team starts with how they play at home.
“If you can’t protect your home floor, you’re not good. It’s hard enough to win on the road. You got to protect your home floor, where you practice every day and where you shoot every day,” Fernandez said.
“So, that’s what good teams do and take pride in, protecting their home floor.”
While the Bulls’ starters shouldered a majority of the scoring load, their supporting cast was not able to follow suit. The bench totaled zero points during the game and only one of the Bulls’ reserve players checked into the contest for more than 12 minutes.
The Bulls will need to see more consistent production from the bench as they makes their way through their conference schedule.
USF hits the road to take on Houston in the Fertitta Center on Wednesday. Tip off is scheduled at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast on BullsUnlimited radio.