USF women’s basketball is already without its two star players that graduated last season. Now, it’s without star junior guard Sammie Puisis.
It was announced that Puisis was unavailable to play minutes before its 76-61 win against Texas-Arlington in the Yuengling Center on Monday.
Bulls (1-0) coach Jose Fernandez said the preseason all-conference first-team selection was injured during an inter-squad scrimmage.
Puisis is arguably the Bulls’ top player. She averaged 15.6 points per game and was named American Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year last season.
But, more importantly, she’s a leader in the locker room.
Fernandez said Puisis provides a “calming factor” when she’s on the floor. Her absence from the lineup became even more noticeable in the second half against the Mavericks (0-1).
USF led by as many as 24 points in the third quarter and would enter the fourth quarter up 64-43.
The Mavericks went on a 13-0 scoring run to cut the Bulls’ lead to nine points with five minutes left.
Fernandez said he thought the Bulls played uncharacteristically selfish on offense. USF committed three turnovers in that same span. It totaled eight in the first half and 14 in the game.
The Bulls were outscored 18-14 and shot 35.7% from the field in the final quarter.
Sophomore forward Daniela Gonzalez scored a career-high 16 points while making all six of her field goal attempts. She also had five turnovers.
“Of course, I’m happy because we won and a win is a win,” Gonzalez said. “But I think we have to be better…We’re going to work it out.”
Freshman guard Vittoria Blasigh made a jumper to stop the run and reclaim the Bulls’ double-digit lead. She scored 15 points with three of six shooting from beyond the arc in her collegiate debut.
Blasigh, a player from Italy, said Puisis and the team has helped her adjust to the physicality of the NCAA.
“Everybody has helped me and said ‘Hey, you need to shoot like don’t be shy – be yourself,” she said.
Fernandez said the Bulls’ performance doesn’t represent the standard he sets for his program – even if the team won by double digits.
“That’s bull****,” Fernandez said. “That’s not where our program is at. It’s unacceptable.”
Puisis is already unavailable for the Bulls’ next game against Stetson on Friday. Fernandez said she had a medical visit on Monday morning and they could learn more about her status in a week and a half.
Fernandez said he won’t clear Puisis to play unless she is “100% mentally, physically and emotionally” ready to come back.
“She’s got a really bright career ahead of her,” he said. “There are more things important than basketball.
Fernandez said he expected to see many of the issues that plagued the Bulls on Monday because many players on his roster haven’t played heavy minutes before.
The Bulls will need to figure out how to keep their composure without Puisis for now.
“We got exposed in a lot of areas, a lot of guys got exposed,” Fernandez said. “So we got to go back as a coaching staff and get our players better.”