With only nine healthy players, the USF women’s basketball team rallied late before running out of gas in a 62-49 loss to Central Florida at the Yuengling Center on Tuesday night.
“I was really proud of our team tonight. With five minutes to go, it was a two-point game and we were at the free throw line, “head coach Jose Fernandez said. “Those final five minutes, we didn’t convert and make shots. UCF did a great job of closing the game off.”
As if the snake-bitten Bulls (10-6, 1-1 AAC) needed any more bad news, it was announced before the game that lone senior Laura Ferreira would miss the contest with an undisclosed illness. Her return is unknown due to something Fernandez referred to as “bigger than basketball.”
“Right now we’re playing without our three best players (Ferreira, Beatriz Jordao, Kitija Laksa),” Fernandez added. “That’s 45-50 points out the lineup. That’s a lot.”
Struggling against UCF’s pesky zone, the Bulls committed 22 costly turnovers, including eight in the first quarter.
“I think the biggest stat of the night was points off of turnovers, it was 29-10,” Fernandez said.
Sophomore Enna Pehadzic was one of two Bulls to finish in double figures, posting her second career double-double with a team-high 16 points and 10 rebounds while tying her career high with four three-pointers, including her final three-ball that cut the deficit to 48-46 with 5:31 remaining.
“I’m proud of the team with how we kept fighting, fighting and fighting,” Pehadzic said. “Offensively, sometimes we didn’t knock down shots, but I’m proud of how we defended, played hard and stayed together.”
Freshman Sydni Harvey finished with 12 points and two boards, while junior Tamara Henshaw added six points, a career-high five assists and 10 rebounds as USF went on to out-rebound UCF, 42-36.
As a team, the Bulls shot a season-low 28% (16-for-57) from the floor and 25% (7-for-28) from three-point range.
Following Pehadzic’s three that trimmed the deficit to two, the Knights (13-2, 2-0 AAC) finished the game on a 12-1 run to seal away only their second-ever win in Tampa in 16 attempts.
USF heads to Storrs on Saturday to face No. 3 UConn at 1 p.m. before returning home to host Tulane on January 19.