DALLAS - Ariadna Pujol’s jumper with 1:52 to play put USF ahead for good in a 52-51 squeaker over SMU Wednesday night at Moody Coliseum.
The game was nip and tuck, with neither team leading by more than seven points. But it also wasn’t very entertaining. The Bulls (16-3, 5-1 American) shot only 32% from the field and went 5 for 20 from three-point range. SMU (11-9, 2-5 American) wasn’t much better, managing just 35%. USF had 18 turnovers and couldn’t get any easy baskets against SMU’s aggressive man defense.
It was a rough night all around for the Bulls. Pujol picked up two early fouls, throwing off the team’s rotation, and the bench offered almost no help. (Jazz Bond’s three-pointer early in the second quarter were USF’s only bench points of the game.) Although Maria Jespersen grabbed 13 rebounds, she and Pujol were a combined 6-for-23 from the field.
Fortunately Kitija Laksa carried USF to victory. She scored 28 points, more than the rest of her teammates combined. Only one other player on either team reached double figures. It was a classic Wardling (aside from the fact that Laksa’s teammates were merely off their games last night and are not normally like this).
After Pujol’s basket, which ended a scoring drought of almost six minutes, Laksa added two free throws to give USF a 52-49 lead. SMU’s Alicia Froling hit two free throws of her own to cut the lead back to one. After Tamara Henshaw was called for traveling, the Mustangs had a chance to win with 14.5 seconds left. But like it did most of the night, USF’s defense snuffed out the threat. They denied SMU an open look and forced a desperate McKenzie Adams three-pointer that missed everything.
The Mustangs tried to manufacture themselves one more chance to win. As Adams’ shot rolled out of bounds, Kiara Perry scrambled to commit a foul before the buzzer went off. Laia Flores missed her first free throw, then intentionally missed the second. The scoreboard operator ran the last 0.3 seconds off the clock with the ball still loose, perhaps hoping to get the referees to award SMU the ball and let them move up to half court with a timeout. But the refs weren’t interested and declared the game over.
The Bulls got through a major letdown game and survived one of their worst offensive performances of the season. USF stays on the road for another tough test as they travel to Temple Sunday afternoon.