Five Bulls scored double figues in USF’s 74-59 win over UCF on Monday night in the American Conference Championship semifinal at Mohegan Sun Resort. It was #19 USF’s third win over UCF this season, and will give them a chance to host an NCAA Regional at the Sun Dome if they can find their way to a top-four seed.
“We had five guys in double figures. I know four of them played 40 minutes, but this is something that we talk about all year long – having an opportunity to play for a conference championship,” said Bulls head coach Jose Fernandez. “This is four years straight that we’re doing that.”
Junior Kitija Laksa led all scorers with 20 points on 7-19 shooting, while fellow junior Laura Ferreira added 17 points and five rebounds. Seniors Laura Ferreira and Laia Flores also went the route in their 101st win as Bulls, and the center tandem of Alyssa Rader and Tamara Henshaw combined to go 10-13 from the floor.
The Bulls held a slim 33-30 at halftime, but back-to-back three-pointers from Maria Jespersen and Laksa forced a Knights timeout. It was USF in control most of the rest of the way, finding answers for the Knights 1-2-2 press and 3-2 zone with easy baskets at the rim and open looks from deep via ball movement.
Laksa & Jespersen were named First-Team All-Conference yesterday,
“It’s always a tough fight with UCF. There’s a lot of respect for them. It was a hard-fought fight and good luck to them for the rest of the season. We’re moving onto the ‘ship game.” said Laksa.
With the win, USF will take on #1 UConn for the fourth-consecutive year in the American Conference Championship Final. The Huskies led Cincinnati 43-5 at halftime of their semifinal, and have yet to lose a game in the five-year history of the American Conference.