Behind an incredible first quarter, another stellar freshman performance, and a career day from junior guard Kitija Laksa, the #22 USF women’s basketball team upset the #13 Ohio State Buckeyes 84-65 in front of a ruckus crowd of 2,852 at the Sun Dome on Sunday afternoon.
“That was a great atmosphere here in the Dome, I’m really proud of our group and the way we shared it,” head coach Jose Fernandez said. “Kit had a special day, having both Maria (Jespersen) and Kit shoot the ball as they did, but I thought the biggest thing we wanted to do was rebound collectively.”
USF finished the game with a commanding 46-26 rebounding advantage, including 15 offensive rebounds. The Bulls held OSU to just one offensive rebound in the first half.
“We really wanted to hold them to one shot, and try and get out and run and score in transition,” Fernandez added.
It’s the Bulls first win over an opponent ranked in the top 15 since since an 11-point road win over #11 Louisville in 2013.
A Laksa three-ball on the first possession of the game ignited the home crowd and set the tone for a crazy entertaining first quarter.
The junior guard scored 23 points in the first half on 9-for-15 shooting and 4-of-6 from three-point range, her second best output in a single half this season. Laksa heated up again in the fourth quarter and finished the game with 41 POINTS (8-for-13 from three-point range), her best game as a Bull and second best single-game performance in USF history (Shantia Grace had 44 in 2008).
Laksa’s 41 point performance on Sunday also tied the American Athletic Conference single-game record.
“We knew what was at stake, we did everything right and the ball was falling down for me,” Laksa said. “At the same time, my teammates were doing a lot and the crowd really helped us win.”
USF led 14-10 at the first media timeout after a Maria Jespersen layup gave the Bulls their first bit of separation.
Jespersen finished with another double-double, scoring 20 points and grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds. The senior forward was also a perfect 7-for-7 from the free throw line.
Ohio State (20-6, 9-3 Big Ten) was forced to call timeout after Laksa missed, rebounded her own shot, and put it back home to give USF a 22-12 lead and bring the fans to their feet. The Bulls led 33-13 at the end of the first quarter.
USF (20-5, 9-2 AAC) led 39-25 at the first media timeout of the second quarter after freshman point guard Alba Prieto provided a huge spark off the Bulls bench.
Prieto, fresh off a career-high performance on Wednesday against ECU, finished with eight points in 11 minutes and drained two key threes in the second quarter to prevent a Buckeye push.
The Bulls took a 46-32 lead into the half and their lead never dipped below 14 points on their way to the romp.
As a team, the Bulls shot 46% from the floor and 50% (11-of-22) from three-point range. USF led in nearly every statistical category.
“It was a great game for women’s basketball on national TV,” Fernandez said. “It’s a good win and now we get back to start worrying about SMU.”
The Bulls will hit the court again on Wednesday night against SMU at the Sun Dome. Tip is scheduled for 7 p.m.