USF women’s basketball advanced to the American Conference Tournament final for the third year in a row following a 63-58 win over Temple on Sunday night at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.
Four USF players have yet to leave the floor in the American Conference Tournament, playing all 80 minutes available against quarterfinalist SMU and Temple. Laia Flores, Maria Jespersen, Kitija Laksa, and Ariadna Pujol have yet to be substituted, as the Bulls (24-7, 13-5 AAC) continue to play through depth and injury issues.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this group,” said head coach Jose Fernandez after the game. “We played five kids in that first half the entire time.” “In that fourth quarter we made big shots and we got the stops that we needed to. It was an important game for both teams for NCAA seeding, “
“For us to be here and playing on Monday night again, with everything that this team has gone through, four new starters, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
Laksa led all scorers with 18 points, but the play of freshman forward Tamara Henshaw was the difference. Her 15 points and six rebounds had her dominating in the post against a big Temple front line. In the first half the Bulls weren’t afraid to throw the ball into the post and ask the freshman to get buckets in a huge game.
USF outrebounded the Owls 42-36, and didn’t commit a personal foul until 2:53 left in the second quarter. They finished with just 11 personals as a team, four of them on Henshaw.
It wasn’t a flawless victory. USF failed to score for the last 5:53 of the third quarter, and struggled at the free throw line shooting just 14-24 from the stripe, well below their season average of 74.2%. It became an issue late when trying to close out the contest, but enough one-of-twos went in to hold off the fouling Owls.
For their efforts, the Bulls once again the privilege of attempting to break the record winning streak of the #1 UConn Huskies. Now at 106 games, it spans the entire membership of UConn in the American Conference.
The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. tonight.