Bulls suffer first quarterfinal loss in program history against Shockers

South Florida was unable to gain a lead throughout its loss to Wichita State. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF women’s basketball lost 65-53 to Wichita State on Tuesday at Dickies Arena in Ft. Worth, Texas, marking the first time in American Conference history the No.1 seed lost before the AAC conference semifinals.

The Shockers (18-13, 6-10 AAC) snapped the Bulls’ (26-6, 15-1 AAC) 10-season run of making either the AAC tournament semifinal or championship game after the Bulls were selected as the favorite to win the tourney. 

South Florida fell behind during a 10-2 run by Wichita State in the first quarter. Midway through the second quarter, the Bulls trailed by 15 points. They ended the first half down 32-20 and shot roughly 32% from the field, marking their second lowest scoring half this season. 

USF was able to cut the gap to two points with a little under six minutes remaining in the third quarter through an 11-0 scoring run, but it wasn’t enough to sustain a win.

Wichita State senior guard Curtessia Dean hit a three-pointer to halt South Florida’s run. WSU went up by as many as 15 points to put an end to the Bulls’ AAC title hopes. 

Senior guard Elena Tsineke led South Florida with 19 points. She acknowledged that it was hard to overcome their disastrous first half, despite remaining hopeful that they would turn the game around.

“I know I missed so many shots, but I still believed that we could win that game.   We had a slow start, so that hurt us in the end,” Tsineke said. “If we started better and earlier, [the outcome] would be better.”

While South Florida exited the tournament earlier than expected, there is still more basketball left for them to play this season. Coach Jose Fernandez said they will need to put this loss behind them with the March Madness tournament beginning in just a few days.

“I don’t want one loss to diminish the job that [Tsineke and senior forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu] have done and the rest of the guys in that locker room because we’ve had a very, very good year…” Fernandez said. “It’s a life lesson. When you’re in college and you play sports, you learn a lot of life lessons. Well, now we’ve got to regroup.”

On Sunday, South Florida will find out where they will be seeded in the NCAA tournament. Before the conference tournament, USF was projected as the No.7 seed in the Greenville region.

The women’s NCAA tournament bracket will be revealed during the selection show on ESPN Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.