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USF Basketball Doubleheader: Women Crush ECU 71-58, Men Down UCF 68-61

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Not a bad way to start off the new year!

NCAA Basketball: South Florida at Memphis Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Mununga, USF Power Past ECU 71-58 to Extend Winning Streak to Six

USF welcomed fans to the Yuengling Center for the first time this season versus fellow conference unbeaten ECU in a crucial battle for first place in the American. The Bulls debuted their gold Los Toros uniforms to start the New Year and they were a beauty.

The sharp threads didn’t help early game struggles as both teams started the contest a combined 0-9 from the field before settling in offensively in a tight game throughout the first half.

The No. 21 Bulls (7-1, 4-0 AAC) were held to just 35% from the field, 17% (2-12) from beyond the arc in the first half, but converted 14-18 free throws to keep pace.

Then Bethy Mununga hit another level.

With the offensive struggles from downtown, the play in the paint became the story for USF with a 19-4 advantage in 2nd chance points and a 48-30 advantage in rebounds. Mununga led all players with 23 points on 7-11 from the floor and 21 rebounds; both a career high. The senior also went 9-12 from the free throw line. Her performance was the eighth 20-20 game in program history and tied for the fourth most rebounds in a game.

After a 9-0 run by the Pirates (5-4, 3-1) in the third to take a three point lead, the Bulls turned on the jets taking a 7-0 run of their own and never looked back. Mununga was a huge part of the scoring surge putting up 12 points in the second half and gathered the first 20-20 game since Alisia Jenkins put up 27 and 20 vs. Harvard In 2015.

“We knew the type of game this was gonna be,” said USF Head Coach Jose Fernandez. “They defend, make you play a certain way.” The Bulls had trouble taking care of the basketball with 16 turnovers, but eventually found a way to get some stops and convert on opportunities in the second half. “We move on. Now in league play, every game is gonna be tough.”

As time expired with the game well in hand, Maria Alvarez launched a three much to the chagrin of the ECU coaches. This occurred right after USF’s Mihaela Lazic was pickpocketed by ECU while she was trying to dribble out the game. When asked what was said Coach Fernandez stated, “That was something that is between myself and the coaches, and that’s it.”

USF will welcome Witchita State (3-3, 0-1) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Yuengling Center.

Men’s Basketball Comes Out on Top 68-61 to Win a War on I-4 Battle

The Bulls (6-4, 2-2) walked out onto their home court wanting to make up for their disappointing loss from their previous game. And they achieved this by defeating their War on I-4 enemy UCF (3-3, 1-2), 68-61.

The game didn’t start well for the Bulls. UCF got out of the gate in a hurry, going up 8-0. However, the green and gold would manage to overcome the deficit and tie the game. What followed then was a half of back-and-forth basketball, with both teams keeping pace with one anther. If one team started to build a small lead, the other team would come right back and tie the score again. The entertaining first half ended with the Bulls down by only one point.

The second half was very similar to the first half. The one thing that made the second half different was the fact that despite staying in the game, UCF could never catch up to their opponents. The Bulls managed to hold on to a small, usually four to six point, lead through the half. They never broke away, but they never let up either. Eventually, UCF ran out of gas and couldn’t keep up anymore, which allowed the Bulls run out the clock and earn the win.

Guard David Collins led the way for the Bulls, scoring 19 points and dishing out 7 assists. His performance tonight was made even more special when he broke the AAC record for most free throws made in a career (458).

The Bulls will be back in the Yuengling Center on Wednesday to take on Tulsa (6-3, 3-1) at 4 p.m.