TAMPA, FEB. 14, 2017 – Despite a late surge in the final quarter of Tuesday night’s women’s basketball game, the University of South Florida couldn’t overcome UCF at Sun Dome Arena. The Knights defeated the Bulls 66-62 in American Athletic Conference action and garnered six points in the War on I-4 series.
The Bulls (20-5, 9-3 The American) had four players in double-figures, led by Maria Jespersen(Arhus, Denmark) with 18 points and a team-best eight rebounds. Despite going down with an injury early in the second quarter, freshman Tamara Henshaw(Palm Coast, Fla.) sparked the Bulls’ comeback in the second half when she returned and scored eight of her 14 points in the final quarter. Ariadna Pujol (Mataro, Spain) added 13 points, seven rebounds and eight assists while Kitija Laksa (Riga, Latvia) chipped in 10 points and six rebounds.
USF struggled to connect in the second and third quarters, finishing 9-for-15 from the charity stripe. The Bulls’ shot over 50 percent in the first and fourth quarters, but a poor shooting performance (3-for-14) in the second quarter pushed USF down 37-28 at the break.
The second quarter proved to be the difference in the game when the Knights outscored the Bulls 20-6 and outrebounded the home team 16-7. Junior Aliyah Gregory finished with 34 points and scored 20 points in the first half.
UCF (16-9, 6-6 AAC) was led by Gregory and Zykira Lewis was the only other Knight in double-figures with 12 points. The Knights won the rebounding edge 39-36.
“Tonight we turned it over. We didn’t get the second shots off the glass. They made plays. It goes into that fourth quarter and I think we played with some energy. We went to the glass, we made some shots. That second quarter was not good for us.”
“You know the history of the series, and how important this game is to UCF. It showed. You saw how they celebrated after the game. Hand it to them, they played hard. They were competitive. They played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
60% – USF only converted 9-of-15 free throw attempts.
UCF increased its lead in the War on I-4 series, taking a 24-15 advantage.
Tuesday was the Bulls’ first non-UConn loss at home in American Athletic Conference action since the 2013-14 season.
The Bulls snapped a 19-game win streak against UCF and lost to the Knights for the first time in Tampa.
USF will host Temple Sunday its annual Play4Kay game. In a crucial showdown for American Athletic Conference Tournament seeding, the Bulls will play the Owls at 2 p.m.
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USF has notched 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 eighth 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).
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 nine 20-win seasons, two WNIT final four appearances, the 2009 WNIT championship and won more than 300 games.