Despite a fairly quiet night from star guard Kitija Laksa, and shooting just 33% from the floor as a team, the #22 USF women’s basketball team rallied for a sixth straight victory, 64-54 over SMU on Wednesday night at the Sun Dome.
“We knew we were going to get their best punch,” USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. “I want to apologize to all the fans that took their time out on Valentine’s Day to come and watch that.”
Both teams struggled offensively out of the gate and for the majority of the first half. The Bulls hauled in seven offensive rebounds to the Mustangs zero in the first few minutes to grab a 9-2 lead at the first timeout.
Senior forward Maria Jespersen connected on the Bulls first layup of the game and later drained a three-ball to spark a 5-0 USF run.
Jespersen finished with a team-high 28 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for another #DenmarkDouble.
“I don’t think we had any hangover from Ohio State,” Jespersen said. “It just took us until halftime to figure out a way how to win this game.”
The Bulls (21-5, 10-2 AAC) defense held the Mustangs without a field goal until there was nearly two minutes remaining in the first quarter.
A 9-7 USF lead at the end of one quarter was coupled with the Bulls shooting 3-for-22 from the floor and 1-for-7 from three-point range.
Outside of the UConn game, the 22-18 halftime lead was the fewest points output in a half for USF this season.
“We were dribbling too much at the beginning of the game,” Fernandez added. “I think we finally started to share it in the third quarter.”
Back-to-back threes to begin the second half from Laura Ferreira and Laksa ignited the Bulls to an 8-0 run and 30-18 lead.
Laksa, fresh off a 41-point performance in a win Sunday against No. 13 Ohio State, finished second in scoring with 16 points but was only 2-for-8 from behind the arc.
Ferreira finished with eight points, four rebounds and added an assist.
All other Bulls shooters were a tick off as USF finished the game shooting just 32% from the floor and 36% (9-of-25) from three-point range.
“We played well against Ohio State, and now we reverted back to this...so that’s the disappointing part,” Fernandez added. “Nobody is going to lay down for us. We are going to have to play a lot better than tonight on the road against UCF.”
USF will travel to Orlando for a noon game against the rival Knights this Sunday.