Every year USF women’s basketball goes something like 15-3 in conference play. UConn, who is really a WNBA team, beats them twice, and then there’s some random road game the Bulls lose that no one sees coming. Sunday night, with everyone distracted by the Super Bowl, USF probably had that one straggler game as Memphis knocked them off 62-57 in front of dozens of people at Elma Roane Fieldhouse.
USF (18-4, 7-2 AAC) doesn’t have a very deep team this year to begin with, but when you add in Jazz Bond’s back injury and Laura Ferreira’s... whatever is wrong with her, the Bulls don’t have much they can call on if their starting unit can’t get it going. That was the case last night. USF shot only 35% from the field, including a dismal 5-for-24 from three-point range. Their two starting guards, Ariadna Pujol and Lara Flores, made only two out of 17 shots.
But with no other real choices on the bench, Jose Fernandez had to roll with his starters. All five of them played at least 32 minutes. Maria Jespersen played all 40, followed by Kitija Laksa with 39 minutes. Jespersen did lead USF with 20 points. Laksa added 16, but there wasn’t much else on for the Bulls, who scored no fast break points and only got one Nancy Warioba basket off the bench.
“If I was going to have an analogy, we were like a thoroughbred racehorse,” said USF head coach Jose Fernandez. “Trained well, good speed times. Planned to run a good race at their pace, but then never responded last night when asked to.”
And no one could slow down Memphis’s Cheyenne Creighton, who led all scorers with 22 points and grabbed nine rebounds. The Lady Tigers (11-12, 4-6 AAC) (shouldn’t they be called the Tigresses?) forced an effective stalemate on the boards and outscored USF 36-20 in the paint. Although their lead never got higher than nine points, Memphis was ahead for nearly the entire game, and beat the Bulls for the second year in a row.
USF’s Laia Flores, who entered the game second in the NCAA Division I with a 3.54 assist-to-turnover ratio increased her number with four assists and just one turnover. For the season Flores has 142 helpers against just 40 miscues.
This is USF’s first truly “bad” loss of the season, although it didn’t hurt them too badly in the rankings. They remain 22nd in this week’s Associated Press poll. The Bulls stay on the road and face East Carolina in Greenville Wednesday night.