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Women’s basketball drops winning streak against Houston

Senior guard Elena Tsineke led the team with 24 points on Sunday. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

After a troubling first half against the University of Houston, No. 24 USF women’s basketball dropped their winning streak on Sunday in a neck and neck 71-69 match.

This would’ve been the Bulls’ (22-5, 11-1 AAC) 16th straight win at home, but a 10-point lead in the first half from the Cougars (10-13, 7-3 AAC) caught South Florida off guard.

Senior guard Elena Tsineke said she did not expect that type of pressure from Houston so early on. 

“It affected us. That shouldn’t have happened in the first half,” Tsineke said. “They were making every three. That’s great to them because they came here ready, but because it happened in the first half means it affected us for the rest of the game.” 

Tsineke led her team with 24 points and three assists, followed by 19 points from redshirt senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu. Mendjiadeu also placed a 7-10 field goal average this game with 19 rebounds under her belt.

However, Houston’s junior guard Laila Blair brought even more energy to the court.

Blair accumulated 30 points in the match and made six of her 13 attempts from the three-point line, making her a threat to South Florida early in the game.

Associate head coach Michele Woods-Baxter recognized USF’s weak defense and slow 30% turnover rate. She said she has now shifted her focus in regards to how the remainder of the season will play out.

“I think we’re going to have to put emphasis on turning the ball over,” Woods-Baxter said.  

“We’re shooting the ball at a high percentage, now we just have to make sure we limit the turnovers so we’re getting up enough shots and taking away empty possessions.”

Now having faced their first conference loss of the season, Mendjiadeu said she realized how every minute counts when playing future challenging opponents like Houston.

“[This game] is reminding us that we have to play forty minutes,” Mendjiadeu said. “We cannot just play 20 minutes in the second half. Coach always said it’ll catch up to us.”

With only four games remaining before the start of their AAC Tournament on Mar. 6, Tsineke said this defeat is a reminder the Bulls need to stay sharp despite advancing to the No. 24 seed.

“I think the purpose of this game is simply a lesson for all of us,” Tsineke said. “We can’t be comfortable in any situation. It doesn’t matter how many wins or streaks we have, we just have to keep going.” 

South Florida finished the game with 46% ball possession, 14 turnovers and seven fouls to its name.

Up next, USF will face Central Florida again on Wednesday in Orlando. 

The green and gold finished its previous match earlier this season against the Knights with a clean sweep of 88-51. Tsineke remained the lead scorer of that game, with Mendjiadeu trailing closely behind. The Bulls stayed consistent and dominated that game in each quarter, which will hopefully work in their favor again leading up to Wednesday.

USF will face its next AAC regular-season opponent away on Wednesday against the University of Central Florida at 7 p.m.