Before we get into what is always the most entertaining (if not always competitive) women’s basketball game of the year, let’s take a look back at what the Bulls did against Tulsa on Saturday. Because it was pretty awesome.
Kitija Laksa went 13-14 from the field, including 6-6 from three-point range, in a 34-point performance as the Bulls beat the Golden Hurricane 90-64. The Bulls shot 33-54 (61.1%), and 8-14 from deep (57.1%). That’s not bad in an open gym, but amazing in a competitive game.
Is Tulsa good? No. They’re 4-11 in the AAC, as is the Houston team USF beat last Thursday 79-50 behind 24 points from Ariadna Pujol. But USF did what they had to do on the road, and are 22-6 entering tonight’s matchup with the Death Star.
If you’ve missed this team this season, they’re such a MASH unit head coach Jose Fernandez should start dressing like Corporal Klinger. Laura Ferreira
will update: might get a redshirt for this season, and she was projected as the second-best player before the season started. As will freshman Enna Pehadzic, who tore her ACL in preseason and was expected to be a major contributor this season.
Laia Flores brutally rolled her ankle... and missed the rest of that half. It was questionable if she should even be walking, but she kept playing 40 minutes a game. Now she’s sixth in Division I in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.09, and plays the game with a passion, touch, and feel that shows she grew up watching soccer. She really should trade jerseys with Ferreira and wear #10.
Doroyatta Nagy got dinged really good. So did Tamara Henshaw and Jazz Bond. But they all played through it as best as they could, and somehow are 22-6 and 11-4 in the AAC, and likely in the NCAA Tournament already. All that grit and grind stuff really came through for them, as it’s pure toughness that got them this far.
Some of the gentlemen across the hall of the Muma Center, especially those no longer allowed in the building, could learn something from them.
Tonight the Bulls take on the Death Star that is UConn, who got the most bizarre scare of all nine days ago at Tulane. Sure it was a trap game after beating South Carolina at home for their record-breaking 100th straight win... but Tulane?? The Green Wave had a look to tie it at the buzzer that fell short, but gave the rest of women’s college basketball a bit of hope.
''We're not as good as everybody thinks we are and today was a perfect example of that,'' said Geno Auriemma after that game. ''They think that every shot that they take is supposed to go in and then when it doesn't go in they pout and they feel sorry for themselves and act like 12-year-olds and that's exactly what happened today.”
Those pouting 12-year olds will go for win 104 in a row tonight against the Bulls, and 79-0 in AAC history.
With the Bulls as banged up as they are, it’ll be tough to compete as they have against UConn in years past. The Huskies embarrassed the Bulls 102-37 January 10 in Hartford, with USF shooting just 15-65 from the floor and 3-20 from deep. Not having Courtney Williams to individually break down a defense and control the clock makes it harder for this season’s Bulls, who against many opponents might actually be better than last year because of superior ball movement.
But UConn moves it as well as any team in history, and of course no one in college basketball is beating them on talent.
USF has had close calls with the Death Star before; there was an overtime game in Storrs in 2004, and they lost by “just” nine in the Sun Dome last season. Without Breanna Stewart & Moriah Jefferson from what might have been the best women’s team ever last year, the Huskies seemed to be a bit more vulnerable in 2017.
How’s that working out so far?
So do not mourn for USF women’s basketball, as they’re 34 in the RPI and will move up even with a loss vs. #1 this evening. Appreciate what they’ve done this season in what was a “transition” year, and remember the hardships of this season will serve them well for what should be an absolutely loaded 2017-18.
And get there early for Senior Night to honor Puyol, Nancy Warioba, Katelyn Weber, and Paige Cashin, who have been a part of the best stretch of basketball in team history.