TAMPA – The Bulls’ run at the Big East tournament ended in the second round after an uncharacteristic game on the defensive end.
Anna Martin scored 33 points and No. 8 seed DePaul shot 52 percent from the floor in the USF women’s basketball team’s 76-62 loss Saturday at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
USF (17-15, 9-9) came in allowing just 61 points per game and had already handed No. 14/21 DePaul a 66-63 overtime loss Jan. 25 in Tampa.
“We just flat out didn’t defend like we have all season long,” USF head coach Jose Fernandez said.
The Bulls’ second and final lead of the game came in the first half when senior Jasmine Wynne’s layup gave them a 19-17 advantage with 10:43 remaining. Megan Rogowski answered with a 3-pointer 18 seconds later and DePaul eventually went into the break with a 40-34 advantage.
“They never really let us crawl back into things,” Fernandez said.
The Bulls kept their deficit in single digits for most of the first 3 minutes of the second half and Inga Orekhova’s 3 made it a seven-point game with a 17:09 to play. USF was within nine about 7 minutes later but failed to slow down a DePaul team that dished out 21 assists.
“It seemed like we could never get a stop in the second half, a loose ball, a rebound,” Fernandez said. “We just could never trim down that lead.”
USF got to the free throw line 25 times, making 15, and was plagued by shooting 26 percent from the floor after the break.
“We didn’t help ourselves shooting as poorly as we did,” Fernandez said.
A big positive for the Bulls was their ability to be efficient with the basketball without injured Sasha Bernard. Freshman Shalethia Stringfield scored five points and junior Kaneisha Saunders dished out three assists while both playing more than 18 minutes apiece.
“I thought Kaneisha Saunders and Shalethia Stringfield did a good job of taking care of the basketball. We only had six turnovers,” Fernandez said.
Wynne posted a team-high 18 points while Orekhova had 17 points a game after scoring a career-high 25 in a win over Pitt in Friday’s first round. Andrell Smith was the other Bull in double figures with 11. Tiffany Conner grabbed 11 of USF’s 37 rebounds.