By Tom Zebold
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA – Strong defense and unselfish offense led to the Bulls having double the fun Thursday night.
Every Bull who played scored while the USF women’s basketball team held Bethune-Cookman to only 11 field goals in a 72-36 rout before a loud crowd of 581 at the USF Recreation Center.
No starter played more than 21 minutes and USF’s bench scored 29 points, led by Shalethia Stringfield’s eight, in the Bulls’ third straight win.
“I think these are the type of games you want to get some of your younger kids in and get your bench players some confidence,” head coach Jose Fernandez said.
USF’s starters also did some damage with senior guard Jasmine Wynne leading the way with 12 points, seven rebounds and four steals in a game the Bulls totaled 15. Akila McDonald’s strong second half powered the sophomore center to 10 points and six rebounds in the Bulls’ second consecutive lopsided victory in the USF Recreation Center.
“I don’t know what it is about the rec center,” Fernandez said. “For one reason or another, they really like it. It’s loud.”
Thursday’s game marked the fifth in seven days for the Bulls (3-2)and Fernandez had some concerns about the marathon schedule having an effect on the team’s performance.
USF put its head coach at ease quickly in the first half and attacked the school record books in the process. The Bulls gave up the fifth-fewest points in a half in the program’s history and grabbed a 37-11 lead at the break.
Bethune-Cookman shot 17 percent from the field during the period and suffered long scoring droughts of nearly eight minutes without a field goal early on. The Wildcats (1-1) 5:24 without a point before getting to 11 in the waning moments of the half.
The Bulls’ defense had a lot to do with it and forced 16 turnovers (10 steals). USF had a 25-11 rebounding advantage in the first half with 17 coming on the defensive end against a team that had only one player over 6 feet tall. USF had a 52-27 edge on the boards by the final buzzer.
“Our coached really preached taking pride in our defense. That’s what we’ve been doing since the beginning of the season,” Wynne said. We just have been playing team defense, not being selfish and going for steals.”
Wynne already was in double figures with 10 points, while Andrell Smith was up to nine at the half. Smith scored the game’s first points on a 3-pointer that was part of a 13-2 run to open the game.
USF kept rolling after the break by going on a 10-4 run with eight straight points coming from McDonald, who got into double figures during the stretch.
“That was the best three minutes of her collegiate career. I told her that when she came off the floor,” Fernandez said. “That was good for her.”
B-CU managed to get to the 20-point mark after nearly 27 minutes and became the second straight team to score less than 45 against the Bulls.
USF gets a much deserved break before heading to Anchorage, Alaska for the Great Alaskan Shootout. The Bulls face Central Michigan Wednesday at 6 p.m. and get Wednesday’s Miami-Alaska Anchorage winner on Thursday at 6 p.m.