Women’s basketball fans left the Yuengling Center with a bittersweet feeling Wednesday night after watching a hard-fought 93-83 win over Tulsa.
The Bulls’ (25-5, 14-1 AAC) triumph over the Golden Hurricanes (15-10, 6-7 AAC) could be the final time that senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu and senior guard Elena Tsineke play in front of the herd.
While there remains a possibility that USF could host a game in the NCAA tournament, Wednesday was Mendjiadeu and Tsineke’s last regular season home game in a green and gold uniform.
Mendjiadeu had 25 points, 12 rebounds and four assists while Tsineke pitched in 15 points and nine assists. Both players were met with a standing ovation from the SoFlo Rodeo as they were subbed out during the final minutes of the game.
As she reflected on her time with the program, Mendjiadeu said she will miss the family atmosphere.
“This team and this chemistry honestly we are one hell of a family. We are really close together and it’s been amazing with the coaches and everybody,” Mendjiadeu said. “We just have each other’s back.”
Coach Jose Fernandez recruited Mendjiadeu from Memphis before the 2021-22 season and has coached Tsineke since her freshman season in 2019-20. He said coaching the duo and watching them grow as individuals was a privilege for him.
“Both of those guys have meant a great deal to this program. Everybody knows them as basketball players, but they’re incredible people,” Fernandez said. “They’re gonna play basketball for a long time.”
USF’s path to victory was not as clear as the score suggested, as it ended the opening quarter down 21-18 and shooting a sluggish 33% from the field. The team struggled to create scoring opportunities against Tulsa’s zone defense.
South Florida’s offense came alive in the second quarter behind junior guard Sammie Puisis, who scored 12 of her team-high 27 points in the period. She sparked a 15-2 scoring run and made a three-pointer to give the Bulls a 42-38 lead heading into the break.
Even though South Florida gained the advantage, Tulsa still remained in the contest during the third quarter. USF could not extend its lead to more than seven points throughout the third quarter due to turnovers. Five of its 11 total turnovers occurred during the period.
Miscues with ball handling would not come back to bite the Bulls as a 12-0 scoring run in the fourth quarter allowed them to secure the win.
Looking ahead, South Florida has their last regular season game against Cincinnati on Wednesday. The next time they will take the court will be in the AAC tournament in Fort Worth, Texas on March 7. Fernandez’s main goal is to keep his team in peak shape with an extended period between games.
“For the next two days, we’ll just worry about ourselves. We will practice and do a lot of individual workouts to keep up with our conditioning. We’ll expand our playbook and put in new actions,” Fernandez said.
“We are off Sunday, then we have two practices and a shootaround to get ready for Cincinnati. We’ll add similar things for the conference tournament and the NCAA tournament.”
Women’s basketball will close out their regular season on the road against the Bearcats on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and BullsUnlimited Radio.