Bulls conquer Knights in War on I-4

Senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu recorded her 17th double-double of the season against UCF. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF women’s basketball dominated UCF in a 83-51 blowout on Sunday at the Yuengling Center, marking its largest win against a conference opponent this season. 

The Bulls (18-4, 7-0 AAC) continued their undefeated streak in the AAC and are currently the only team in the league with a clean record. Their assertive defense and strong rebounding sparked easy offensive opportunities against the Knights (10-8, 1-4 AAC). 

Consecutive defensive stops helped South Florida build an early lead, holding Central Florida to 31% field goal shooting during the first quarter. 

When facing Houston on Wednesday, USF allowed 23 points on 50% field goal shooting in the final quarter. Coach Jose Fernandez was satisfied with his team’s return to form against UCF. 

“I think the thing I was most pleased with about our performance was how we defended,” Fernandez said. “I thought we did a good job defending without fouling.”

One skill that carried South Florida throughout the match was its rebounding, racking up 42 rebounds compared to Central Florida’s 30. Finishing those defensive possessions early became easier for USF by controlling the boards.

Senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu helped lead the Bulls on the glass, finishing the game with a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds. Mendjiadeu was recently named to the 2023 Becky Hammon player of the year midseason list. 

Mendjiadeu said she personally takes pride in her rebounding ability because of the effort it takes with every possession.

“You got to really make up your mind and say ‘I am going to box her out and I’m going to go get the rebound,’” Mendjiadeu said.  

As a team, the effort USF put into its defense and rebounding was rewarded on the other end of the court. They shot 51% from the field and generated 21 fast break points. 

Senior guard Elena Tsineke had a team-high 21 points. She made a midrange jumper to finish a 10-0 scoring run to increase the lead to 15-2 in the first quarter.

South Florida dictated the pace of the game against Central Florida and kept its double-digit lead for its entirety. The Knights were unable to close their deficit to fewer than 15 points and were down by as much as 33 points. 

Looking ahead, South Florida will begin a two-game road trip against conference foe Tulsa. The Golden Hurricanes (15-4, 5-1 AAC) are currently ranked second in the conference and could pose a serious threat to the Bulls.  

Fernandez said he has always admired the way Tulsa coach Angie Nelp has run the program during her tenure and knows that his team will have to maintain their robust defense in order to win against them.

“We will have to do a great job defending the arc and containing their dribbling,” Fernandez said. “It is going to be a great game.”

Women’s basketball plays Tulsa on Wednesday at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPNU and Bulls Unlimited.