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Bulls need Laksa to remain lights-out

USF freshman Kitija Laksa has gone 12-for-20 from 3-point range in the Bulls' last two games.


USF freshman Kitija Laksa has gone 12-for-20 from 3-point range in the Bulls' last two games.



On a night when perfection might be a prerequisite for victory, the Bulls women already find themselves far from perfect health.

Senior PF Alisia Jenkins (left ankle) remains questionable for Sunday's showdown with top-ranked Connecticut, possibly subtracting an indefatigable low-post dimension -- one that accounts for a double-double a night -- from Coach Jose Fernandez's club.

So what happens if Jenkins can't go? Simple, Fernandez indicated Friday: Next dimension up.

That's where Kitija Laksa comes in.

After shooting 31.4 percent from 3-point range (16-for-51) in non-conference play, the 6-foot freshman has spent the last two games brandishing the long-range proficiency she displayed for the Latvian national team.

In three American Athletic Conference contests, she's 13-for-24, including a mesmerizing effort (8-for-12) in Thursday's 83-56 rout of SMU. Laksa's 38 points against the Mustangs were the most scored by an AAC player this season, and the second-highest single-game point total in the league's 2 1/2-year history.

"We knew what Kit could do," said Fernandez, who also watched Laksa score 21 (on a 4-for-8 effort from 3-point land) in Tuesday's 108-63 embarrassment of UCF.

"We saw that when we recruited her and how she played in Spain (on the summer exhibition tour). It's great for her to have two back-to-back games shooting the ball as well as she did."

If she can notch a third consecutive blistering night, the Bulls have a puncher's chance against the three-time reigning national champs, who enter the Sun Dome on a 50-game win streak.

To be sure, the Huskies will key on neutralizing the penetration and mid-range jumper of senior Courtney Williams (21.2 ppg). When Williams is bottled up, she can dish to sophomore wing Laura Ferreira (10.2 ppg) or sophomore F Maria Jespersen (6.9 ppg), a combined 22-for-70 from 3-point range. A healthy Jenkins would be a bonus.

A hot-handed Laksa would be a boon, creating more space for Williams.

Next dimension up.

"When you have somebody dropping 38, that will take anybody's team to the next level," Williams said. "It can stretch the offense out, open up the floor for more of us if she keeps hitting shots like that consistently."

[Last modified: Saturday, January 9, 2016 3:04pm]


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