LUBBOCK, Texas – USF stunned Texas Tech and its rowdy home crowd Saturday night to secure its first NCAA tournament win in program history.
Inga Orekhova hit five 3-pointers and finished with 20 points to help the Bulls defeat the Lady Raiders, 71-70, and advance to Monday night's second-round test against second-seeded Cal back at the United Spirit Center. Game time is set for 8:45 p.m. Central time.
"It means a lot. I think not only does it help our program, it helps our entire athletic department and our university," head coach Jose Fernandez said.
Orekhova's final 3-pointer tied the game up at 66 with 1:09 remaining.
"I had the mentality that this has to go in," Orekhova said.
Andrell Smith heated up in the second half to finish with 13 points and USF got stellar contributions from its freshmen. Guard Courtney Williams scored 12 points and forward Alisia Jenkins' late free throws got her up to 10 points. Jenkins made both of her free throw attempts with four seconds remaining and her final shot sealed the win for the Bulls.
Fernandez said a big key to victory would be controlling play in the paint and the Bulls delivered. Jenkins posted a team-high eight rebounds as USF finished with a 45-40 edge on the glass. Akila McDonald and Andrea Smith added seven rebounds apiece and helped the Bulls finish with a 28-22 advantage in points in the paint.
USF (22-10) led by seven points with less than eight minutes to go before the Lady Raiders made their final charge. Chynna Brown ignited the crowd of 6,062 with a 3-pointer that put Texas Tech ahead, 64-61, with 2:07 to play. Orekhova followed with two free throws and Texas Tech fired back with a jumper by Christine Hyde with 1:33 left.
That set the stage for the biggest shot of Orekhova’s career and Texas Tech had no answer on the other end of the floor. Brown’s jumper misfired and Andrell Smith’s free throws put USF ahead, 68-66, with 24 seconds remaining.
Tiffany Conner’s free throw with 14 seconds left gave the Bulls a three-point lead and Andrea Smith showed her senior leadership by fouling Monique Smalls before she could try to force overtime. Smalls went 1-for-2 from the free throw line and Jenkins put the game out of reach after she was fouled with four seconds left.
USF went 8-for-9 at the free throw line in the final two minutes.
"It shows the type of team that we have and the type of character we have. Different girls stepped up," Fernandez said.