GREENVILLE, N.C., FEB. 8, 2017 – Kitija Laksa scored 18 of her 34 points in the second half to lead a late surge by the No. 22 Bulls in a 76-66 comeback victory over East Carolina at Minges Coliseum.
USF (19-4, 8-2) grabbed the lead late in the third quarter and never looked back, scoring 39 points in the second half to complete the regular season sweep of ECU (10-14, 1-10).
Laksa finished four points shy of her career high while going 14-for-22 from the field and 4-for-8 from long range. USF shot 51 percent overall after getting the boost it needed from starting point guard Laia Flores (Spain), who battled through an injury after missing the first half.
Junior Maria Jespersen (Denmark) scored nine of her 16 points in the second half. Freshman Tamara Henshaw (Palm Coast, Fla.) posted the third double-double of her career with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
ECU led for 16 minutes of the first half and headed into the break with a 39-37 advantage. The Pirates started with a 19-13 rebounding edge that led to 11 second-chance points.
The Bulls’ offense bounced back quickly from the loss to Memphis by shooting 50 percent from the field in the opening half. Laksa knocked down seven of her first 12 shots to get up to 16 points by the break.
USF used a 10-0 run to seize the momentum late in the third quarter, grabbing a 54-52 lead on a Jespersen layup with 1:23 remaining. Laksa scored 10 points in the quarter and her jumper pumped the advantage up to 56-52 heading into the final period.
ECU cut a six-point deficit in half in the first two minutes of the fourth, but the Bulls pulled away in their best road victory ever in Greenville. USF improved to 3-3 at ECU and had never won by more than seven in the series away from Tampa.
“That just shows how tough that kid is. She wanted to give it a go and did a great job… We’re a different team without Laia Flores on the floor and we saw that today.”
31-for-60 -- USF shot 51.7 percent from the field and outscored ECU, 39-27, in the second half.
17 – The number of assisted totaled by USF, compared to only 10 turnovers committed by the Bulls.
15 – USF scored 15 points off 16 takeaways while ECU struggled down the stretch, shooting 37 percent in the second half.
- USF played four of its past five games on the road, finishing the stretch with a 4-1 record.
- USF is one victory away from its fifth consecutive 20-win season and the ninth in program history.
- Kitija Laksa scored at least 30 points for the fifth time this season and the seventh time of her career.
USF begins a three-game home stand with a test against Tulane on Sunday at noon (TV: ESPN2). Reserve your seats at USFBullsTix.com or by calling 1-800-Go-Bulls.
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The Bulls return eight players from last season, and have signed six newcomers to the roster. American Athletic Conference Freshman of the YearKitija Laksawill lead a squad full of international flavor that boasts nine players from around the world. USF will look to extend its postseason streak to five consecutive seasons and return to the conference championship for the third time in as many years.
USF has made 12 postseason tournament appearances and had four NCAA Tournament berths in Head CoachJose Fernandez’s 16 seasons. The all-time winningest coach in program history, Fernandez has guided USF to seven 20-win seasons, two WNIT final four appearances, the 2009 WNIT championship and won more than 280 games.
To purchase season tickets, contact the USF Ticket Office at 1-800-Go-Bulls or by going online to USFBullsTix.com.