Another upset: USF women knock off No. 21 Syracuse
TAMPA -- For the second time in four days, USF women's basketball has significantly upgraded its NCAA Tournament resume by knocking off a ranked opponent, as the Bulls upset No. 21 Syracuse 68-66 in the Sun Dome on Saturday afternoon.
"I think this team's made a statement, beating two top-20 teams in a matter of ... days," coach Jose Fernandez said. "I think we'll get some national attention, that's for sure."
The Bulls (19-7, 8-5 in Big East) rallied from 13 points down in the second half, taking the lead on an Andrell Smith 3-pointer with 1:42 left, then breaking a tie on Akila McDonald's shot with 24 seconds left. Syracuse's last-second heave missed, and the Bulls celebrated a huge win, coming off the heels of an upset Wednesday night at No. 12 Louisville. Those two wins could result in the Bulls being ranked in the top 25 for the first time in the program's history.
"Are we deserving? I think so," Fernandez said. "You just beat two pretty good teams, and the losses that we have, I think this team has shown they can play with anybody in the country. Rutgers is our next focus and we'll go from there."
The Bulls hit 11 3-pointers against a Syracuse team that came in with the Big East's toughest 3-point defense in conference play. Andrell Smith finished with 16 points and twin sister Andrea Smith had 18; freshman Alisia Jenkins had all six of her points in the final five minutes. Syracuse (22-4, 10-3) got 17 points off the bench from Carmen Tyson-Thomas, with McDonald's defense keeping top scorer Kayla Alexander well under her average with 11 points and four rebounds.
"My thoughts going into the game was I was not going to let her score," said McDonald, who grabbed two key defensive rebounds in the final 13 seconds to seal the win. "I didn't care if I hit a bucket all night as long as she didn't hit one. ... We've been trying to show everybody, prove ourselves, not just for the media but to us, that we have the talent to be ranked and beat teams like Notre Dame, Syracuse and Louisville."
USF has three games remaining -- at Rutgers on Wednesday, home Saturday against No. 3 Connecticut and at Georgetown -- two wins would likely lock up just the Bulls' second NCAA Tournament appearance, and one might even be enough.
"It's kind of been everything we wanted, to be honest. We've worked so hard," said Andrell Smith, who also had six assists. "We're starting to see it pay off. If we can keep this thing rolling, that's just confidence that we'll have going into each game."