TAMPA - Jose Fernandez stood proudly with one hand on the
game ball and another around the shoulder of one of his players as the Bulls' fight
song played from the stands at the Sun Dome.
The scene was fitting for a head coach that's made
a ton of history at USF and appreciates each person that has pitched in through
Inga Orekhova put up a career-high 25 points and freshman
Alisia Jenkins posted her first double-double Monday to help USF wrap up
non-conference play with a 74-60 win over Detroit Mercy that gave Fernandez his
200th career victory at USF.
"You don't get to 200 if it's not for coaching the type of
student-athletes that I have an opportunity to work with every day," Fernandez
said. "I've been fortunate to coach some great kids since the year 2000 and to
be at a place for 13 years, not many people get that opportunity to do that now
with the amount of changes in men's basketball, women's basketball and
Andrell Smith added 19 points, Jenkins had 11 points and 11
rebounds while Andrea Smith scored 12 points on the same day she was named to
the Big East's weekly honor roll. Andrell Smith and Orekhova each went 4-for-6
from the 3-point line to help the Bulls reach at least 11 wins before Big East play for
the second time under Fernandez.
"Coach Jose will be a part of a legacy we leave here and to
be a part of win 200 means a lot for us," Andrell Smith.
USF (11-2) led by four in the second half but two technical fouls on
Titans head coach Autumn Rademacher helped the Bulls put the game away with an 11-0
run that ended with less than seven minutes left.
"We had to get together as a team and put the free throws
in," said Orekhova, who scored four points from the charity stripe during the
Orekhova also gave Fernandez and the Bulls a big push in the
right direction early, making consecutive 3-pointers and adding a three-point
play to lead a game-opening 11-2 run.
Shareta Brown, the nation's leading scorer heading into the
game, helped the Titans bounce back in a hurry with a pair of baskets that
sparked an 11-0 run as a 3-pointer by Demeisha Fambro gave Detroit a 15-13
USF called a timeout with 11:37 remaining in the half and a
quick talk proved to be beneficial as Andrell Smith tied the game at 15 shortly
after play resumed. Detroit's second straight turnover off an in-bound pass set
Smith up for a 3-pointer.
Detroit tied things up at 24 when Brown beat the shot clock
buzzer to get up to 14 points and the sophomore improved to 7-for-7 at the free
throw line to get the Titans even with the Bulls at 26.
The Titans had a brief lead until Andrea Smith put USF
ahead, 32-31, and Jenkins added four of her eight points to help the Bulls head
into halftime with a 36-33 advantage. Jenkins also had six rebounds which left
the freshman two away from her single-game career high.
Brown led all scorers with 18 points at the break while
Orekhova joined her in double figures with 11 points.
USF led by as many as 13 points in the second half before
seeing the advantage shrink to four with 11 minutes to play. A second technical
foul on the Titans paved the way for two free throws by Orekhova to end Detroit's
Rademacher received her second technical and was ejected
with 9:06 to play while two more free throws by Orekhova got USF's lead back up
to double digits. Orekhova and Caitlin Rowe had four points apiece during the
decisive 11-0 run that put the Bulls ahead, 65-50, with less than seven minutes
Brown finished with 24 points (two below her average) after
scoring just six points after the break. Brown was the lone Titan in double
figures as Detroit (7-5) ended up shooting 28 percent from the field.
The Bulls get conference play started Tuesday, Jan. 8 when
they host Notre Dame at 7 p.m.
"We have a whole week to prepare for them, so we'll be
ready," Orekhova said.
- Andrea Smith made the Big East weekly honor roll
on Monday after scoring a season-high 29 points and adding nine rebounds in USF's
100-75 win over FAMU on Saturday.
- USF is 10-0 this season when it heads into
halftime with a lead.
- The Bulls are 6-1 inside the Sun Dome this
- USF's upcoming game against Notre Dame will cap
off a three-game homestand that's the Bulls' longest stay at home this season.