Bulls women match history in rout of UCF
TAMPA -- She struggled with her second language in her inaugural postgame press conference. When asked how gratifying her team's collaborative effort was Saturday, freshman Ariadna Pujol paused, put her hands to her face and laughed anxiously.
"Sorry, I'm so nervous," Pujol said in her thick European accent.
It was a rare hiccup on an otherwise historic day for USF (13-10, 8-4 American Athletic Conference). A native of Mataro, Spain, Pujol was among 12 Bulls players who scored in an 89-54 romp of UCF, matching the program's largest margin of victory in a conference game.
USF defeated Virginia Commonwealth 83-48 in a Metro Conference home game on Jan. 21, 1994. The Bulls tied that margin Saturday when freshman Jayla King sank a 3-pointer from the right wing with 24 seconds to play.
Five minutes earlier, they had led by 40.
"We didn't have a goal, 'Hey, let's go beat UCF by 30,'" Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said.
"I think winning by (35) like we did, if you do the little things, the score takes care of itself. ... I think by doing that -- sharing the ball, taking high-percentage passes, not taking plays off on either end of the floor -- it took care of itself."
Not that the Bulls clicked immediately. More than four minutes into the game, USF trailed 4-2 and found itself 1-for-9 from the floor. Three of the misses were from behind the arc.
"I think we just played individually those first four (minutes)," Fernandez said.
They played collectively the rest of the way. By game's end, 14 scholarship players and two walk-ons had logged duty. Sophomore Courtney Williams (18 points, 12 rebounds), Pujol (16 points) and sophomore Alisia Jenkins (13 points, eight boards) led the way.
Driving the lane at will, flourishing in transition and owning the paint, USF finished with a 53-34 rebounding advantage and collected 44 points in the paint.
"When you look at teams' toughness on the women's side, men's side, rebounding is huge," Fernandez said. "It's all effort. Taking charges, diving on the floor, attacking the rim -- that's toughness."