TAMPA, FEB. 12, 2017 – It’s been a season of highlights for the University of South Florida women’s basketball team and on Sunday it added another by notching the 20th win of the season. The Bulls defeated Tulane 66-56 at Sun Dome Arena.
USF (20-4, 9-2 The American) dominated the glass, outrebounding Tulane 41-30. Maria Jespersen(Arhus, Denmark) tallied a game-high 11 rebounds while freshman Tamara Henshaw(Palm Coast, Fla.) grabbed 10. Jespersen added 14 points for her ninth double-double performance of the season while Henshaw just missed her fourth double-double with eight points. Henshaw also added four blocks.
Sharp shooter Kitija Laksa (Riga, Latvia) turned in another stellar performance with a game-high 21 points, shooting 50 percent (8-for-16). The Mataro, Spain duo of Ariadna Pujol and Laia Flores combined for 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Flores played all 40 minutes.
The Bulls only trailed once, by one point, early in the first quarter, but for the majority of Sunday’s matinee, led by double-figures. Back-to-back three pointers by Flores and Laksa in the first quarter sparked the Bulls offense that entered the half with a six-point lead. Jespersen turned in another strong third quarter performance with seven points to give the Bulls a 45-34 advantage entering the final quarter. Both teams offense surged in the fourth quarter, but despite the Green Wave’s pressure, USF pulled out another 10-point victory.
Tulane (15-10, 6-6 AAC) was led by Kolby Morgan with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Leslie Vorpahl added 19 points, five rebounds and five assists.
“We played a good team today, they are great. We have a lot of respect for them. They have great players and the way they change up defense gets us confused and forces turnovers. I think we responded well and made adjustments. Coach told us they are going to pressure us and get in zone and switch up defenses but I think we responded and we got the win.”
Head coach Jose Fernandez on his team’s defensive and rebounding effort:
“Four guys in double figures. It feels good to be back home after that road trip. I thought we did a really good job defending in the first half, besides that 8-0 run they went on. That’s the only thing we talked about at half time. We did a much better job keeping them off the glass. They had offensive rebounds in the first half, but they only had two in the last 20 minutes. Laia Flores, is playing on her ankle and giving us everything she can. She was so proud of her toughness on national TV. Every injury is different, but looking at the swelling and the pain that she has been playing through the last 60 minutes is big.”
30– USF scored 30 points in the paint, marking the second-straight game USF has outscored opponents in the paint. Tulane was limited to just 22.
4- USF had four players in double-figures and five players with at least four rebounds.
USF (19-4, 9-2 The American) collected its fifth consecutive 20-win season. The Bulls
tallied its 20th win in their 24th contest of the season which tied the fastest any program has reached 20 wins. This is the ninth 20-win season in program
history and head coach Jose Fernandez has been at the helm for all nine 20-win seasons. The 2014-15 team reached 20 wins in 24 games, and still currently holds the best record for most wins in a season (27).
Laksa has totaled 11 20-point games this season, including four during the conference season.
USF remains at home and will play in the War on I-4 Tuesday against UCF. The Bulls will celebrate Valentine’s Day at 7 p.m. at the Sun Dome Arena.
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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 Year Kitija Laksa will 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 Coach Jose 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.
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