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Women’s basketball celebrates AAC title, prepares for future challenges

Coach Jose Fernandez is preparing for senior night and the rest of the regular season before the AAC tournament. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

The Bulls celebrated their AAC regular season title on Saturday, but went right back to work on Tuesday.

Despite winning their second conference title in the last three seasons, USF (24-5, 13-1 AAC) women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez recognized the job isn’t finished.

“We still have a lot to play for, both a conference championship and an automatic bid,” Fernandez said in a Tuesday press conference.

This season has been historic for the Bulls. Fernandez recorded his 118th conference victory on Jan. 31, overtaking UConn coach Geno Auriemma for the most wins in AAC history.

However, what makes the remainder of this season even more meaningful is the impending departure of two beloved seniors — guard Elena Tsineke and forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu. Winning the conference tournament in Texas would be a strong finale to their college careers.

Fankam Mendjiadeu has arguably been one of the most dominant forwards in college basketball. She averages 16.7 points per game along with 12.6 rebounds, which ranks third in the NCAA. She was also named to the Becky Hammon Player of the Year Midseason List on Jan. 23.

Tsineke’s performance has also taken tremendous leaps during her final season in a Bulls uniform. Her 17.7 points per game leads the team and ranks top 50 in the country. She has cracked double-digits scoring averages in each of her four seasons and has made 99 career starts.

Both players will be honored during Wednesday’s senior night festivities. Jose Fernandez raved about the duo when asked about their impact on USF basketball throughout their tenure.

“Hopefully five years down the road both of them will have their jerseys in the rafters because their status will be deservedly so,” Fernandez said.

With two more regular season games left to play, a conference tournament and a potential March Madness bid, USF has a long way to go until it matches the expectations that were set during preseason.

“The next five games are crucial. Wherever the committee determines we’re going to play, we’ll deal with it,” Fernandez said.

The Bulls will face Tulsa for their final home game of the season, and then will head to Cincinnati to take on the Bearcats. The AAC tournament begins March 6 and will be hosted in Fort Worth, Texas.

After losing to Miami in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament, USF is focused on getting back to the tournament and, most importantly, winning.