In a very emotional senior night for guards Laia Flores and Maria Jespersen, USF women’s basketball defeated the Cincinnati Bearcats 84-65 Saturday afternoon at the Sun Dome.
The duo have won 99 career games at USF, most all-time in a four year span. They will also be the first two players to play in four NCAA tournaments at USF.
“I didn’t even know what the NCAA tournament was before I got here,” guard Maria Jespersen said. “We were just lucky to come into a great team with really great players that taught us a lot.”
Jespersen paced the Bulls with 26 points and 16 rebounds, good for a team-best 17th double-double and her fifth-straight.
“As soon as you start playing the game, you forget that it’s your last,” a visibly emotional Jespersen said. “It didn’t really hit me until coach took me out. I even told him ‘don’t sub me out, don’t sub me out’. As soon as the crowd stood up and started clapping for me and Laia, I just couldn’t hold it back anymore.”
.@mjespersen12 and @laiaflores10 checking out for likely the last time on their home floor. Jespersen finishes with 26 pts an 16 reb. Flores finishes with 12 assists.#ThankyouMaria #ThankyouLaia pic.twitter.com/6WIEw9wmjM— The Daily Stampede (@StampedeSBN) February 24, 2018
Flores finished with two points and a season-high 12 assists for the Bulls.
“For those two seniors, it’s been an emotional week...They’ve been really, really special to our program and to this university,” head coach Jose Fernandez said.
Junior guard Kitija Laksa and Jespersen combined for 35 of USF’s 43 first-half points to give the Bulls a 43-30 halftime lead. The Latvian finished with 22 points and moved into second place all-time for three’s in season with 105, besting her 101 three’s from 2016-2017. She is 12 away from tying Janae Stokes for most in a season (117). The NCAA record is 124.
USF (24-5, 13-2 AAC) shot 46% from the field and hit 12 three-pointers. They also had 21 assists on 29 made field goals.
Center Alyssa Rader got the start and had 13 points and five rebounds, including three on the offensive glass. Guard Laura Ferreira hit four three’s in the third quarter to push the USF lead to over 20.
The Bulls will face UConn on Monday night in Storrs to finish off the regular season. The game starts at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.
“We gotta play a lot better than what we played here at home...We gotta rebound and we have to defend. We didn’t compete and the game was over in the first five minutes,” Fernandez said.