Women’s basketball season in review
After losing to South Carolina 76-45 in the second round of the NCAA tournament on March 19, USF women’s basketball’s season came to an end.
While the Bulls (27-7,15-1 AAC) matched program records in total wins, including longest winning streak and best home record, the AAC tournament did not go the way they had hoped.
Before the offseason begins, it’s time to reflect on their season and their outlook going forward.
American Conference Play
On Oct. 12, USF was selected as the preseason favorite to win the conference. For a good portion of the season, the team was on the right path to meet its lofty expectations. The Bulls went 15-1 in conference play and beat their opponents by an average of 14.9 points per game.
Some of their most impressive wins took place during those 16 conference games. This includes beating Wichita State 69-46 on Jan. 7, Cincinnati 85-55 on March 1 and UCF 73-44 on Feb. 15.
This culminated in South Florida winning its second regular season title in three seasons after beating SMU 70-62 on Feb. 19.
The regular season momentum would not carry into the AAC tournament. By falling 65-53 to No. 8 Wichita State in the quarterfinal, South Florida became the first No.1 seeded team in tourney history to lose before the semifinals.
Disappointment would not linger for long as the Bulls were selected to the NCAA tournament the following week. Their grit and determination allowed them to complete a double digit comeback in overtime against No. 9 Marquette to win 67-65 and progress to the second round.
Their success was short lived when No.1 South Carolina put an end to their season by scoring a barrage of points in the closing half of play.
The big three shined
It’s not every year that a team boasts a conference player of the year. But this season, South Florida had two — seniors guard Elena Tsineke and forward Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu.
Tsineke and Mendjiadeu won co-conference players of the year on March 4. Tsineke led the conference in scoring this past season and Mendjiadeu was one of the best post players in the country. Her 12.3 rebounds per game placed fifth in the NCAA.
Junior guard Sammie Puisis was the connecting piece for the trio. Puisis, a transfer from Florida State, was known as a knockdown three-point shooter. In three seasons with the Seminoles, she shot 36% from beyond the arc.
With a larger role at USF, Puisis had career-highs in nearly every statistical category and maintained her three point shooting in the process. She made 109 three pointers this season which ranks fourth in the country. For her stellar season, she was named AAC newcomer of the year on March 5.
Puisis, in tandem with Tsineke and Mendjiadeu, helped form one of the most dangerous trios in all of college basketball. The three combined for an average of 50 points per night. At one point, the three all ranked in the top 40 in the nation for scoring.
Roster questions: Scoring and post play
Two of USF’s top scorers, Tsineke and Mendjiadeu, will not be on the roster next year. The two players combined for nearly half of the team’s points this season. It’s reasonable to question who can shoulder the scoring load alongside Puisis.
Mendjiadeu’s particular departure leaves another concern in the rebounding department. South Florida totaled 40 rebounds per game this season and around 30% of them came from the Cameroon native.
Considering the reason why the Bulls lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament was because of their performance on the glass, it would benefit the roster to add more size in the offseason, whether it be through the transfer portal or by signing a high school prospect.
Looking ahead: Continuity and youth
Despite the gravity of losing the senior duo, there still remains a competitive group of players.
Barring any activity in the transfer portal, the roster will have 11 returners. That type of roster continuity was not present this past season, with only four players returning from the 2021-22 season.
Fans can also keep an eye on the Bulls’ strong young core, headlined by freshman wing Carla Brito. She started in all 34 games she played in and won multiple freshman of the week honors.
Along with Brito, freshman forward Daniela Gonzalez averaged 4.4 points per game and provided the roster with lineup versatility.
Freshman guard Marina Asensio also showed flashes of success this past year coming off the bench. She posted a career-high seven assists in a Nov. 11 game against Florida A&M.
All three players could prove to be vital in the coming seasons.