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Fernandez sets AAC wins record

While surpassing the AAC career wins record, Jose Fernandez has led the Bulls to their second longest winning streak in program history this season. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Coach Jose Fernandez became the all-time leader in AAC wins as No. 25 USF women’s basketball beat SMU 65-63 Saturday at Moody Coliseum.

Fernandez recorded his 119th win in the American by guiding the Bulls (22-4, 12-0 AAC) past the Mustangs (14-7, 5-4 AAC). He surpassed the previous record holder, UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who had 118 wins between the 2013 and 2020 seasons before joining the Big East. 

USF has consistently been an elite team in the conference since joining in 2013-14. In their debut season, the Bulls went 13-5 in conference play. They have won 10 or more conference games in nine of their last 10 seasons.   

The success Fernandez instilled in the program became prominent in 2020-21 when USF won the regular season title as well as the AAC tournament. The Bulls have made the AAC tournament final in six of the last eight seasons and have gone as far as the semifinals in every season since their debut. 

Since then, the Bulls have continued their domination over the league. USF currently has 12 straight conference wins, which ties its best start in conference play in program history. 

Senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu finished Saturday’s game with 21 points and 8 rebounds. She scored the layup that gave USF the game-winning lead with 59 seconds remaining in the match.

Mendjiadeu said it has been a privilege for her to play under a coach of Fernandez’s stature. 

“It is an honor, I’m really happy for him. He’s really an excellent coach. He holds us accountable and I think that’s what made this team really special because he does not hold his tongue,” Mendjiadeu said. “It just pushes us to be better every time. So I’m really happy for him…he’s amazing.”

When Saturday’s game ended, the Tampa Bay community took to social media to congratulate the veteran coach. President Rhea Law and Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly both sent congratulatory tweets to Fernandez.

Women’s basketball returns to the Yuengling Center to face Houston on Sunday at 2 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2 and BullsUnlimited radio.