Key wins for women's hoops, baseball
Lots to revisit from Saturday night, as USF's women's basketball team held off a pesky, difficult Florida Gulf Coast team to advance in the Women's NIT, and the Bulls' baseball team continued to put up big numbers at the plate in a 15-7 home win against Rutgers.
-- It's worth noting, first, that the crowd at Red McEwen for baseball was 887 fans, or 75 more than women's basketball had for a home postseason basketball game. FGCU had a good showing of fans making the drive up from their Estero campus, so there wasn't as much of a home-court advantage in the stands. USF's biggest wins this season have come away from Tampa, but the Bulls earned another home game later this week, likely on Thursday or Friday, against the winner of Sunday's Mississippi-Murray State game.
-- Ryan Lockwood is finding his rhythm again. Barely hitting .200 in the first few weeks of the season, Lockwood went 4-for-5 in USF's Big East opener on Friday, then led off Saturday's game with his first career home run, sparking a 15-hit attack for the Bulls. Three more hits from sophomore Jonathan Koscso, who has a team-high 21, and two more RBIs for outfielder Junior Carlin, who has 14 in just 48 at-bats. The Bulls took advantage of six Rutgers errors, and Derrick Stultz is the staff's first three-game winner, pitching into the sixth and leaving with a comfy eight-run lead.
-- Jose Fernandez had high praise for freshman guard Jasmine Wynne, who in just her fourth career start came up huge with 26 points in USF's 88-81 overtime win. Fernandez said "she is our future in the backcourt," and said he had confidence to put the ball in her hands down the stretch. Wynne had USF's last two field goals in regulation, banking in a shot for a 75-72 lead, then with 15 seconds to play, picking up a loose ball and driving for a 79-77 lead. After FGCU forced overtime, Wynne had the first four points in overtime, and Jessica Lawson's three-point play with 51 seconds left sealed USF's win. With four key seniors graduating from the starting lineup, Wynne and junior Janae Stokes will be key scorers next season.
-- Given a considerable size advantage inside, I thought seniors Jessica Lawson and Brittany Denson did exactly what USF needed in the post, taking good passes from the guards and converting them consistently into points. Lawson went for 19 points and 15 rebounds, and Denson had 18 and 12. In second-chance points, USF outscored FGCU 23-6 -- Lawson's big basket in overtime was on a putback. And guard Shantia Grace, nearly absent in the first half, had six assists after halftime and was a steady 4-for-4 at the line. USF went 19-for-26 at the line, better than the team's average this season.
-- The Bulls can pull for Murray State today, just because USF hasn't lost to a team outside the RPI top 100 and Murray State didn't beat a team in the RPI top 120 in the regular season. Mississippi would be a more formidable opponent, with a top 25 win against Vanderbilt. The Rebels have played well on the road -- lost at Tennessee by one, lost at Auburn by seven and again by six in the SEC tourney, and lost by five at Mississippi State. Ole Miss has considerable size inside, with two 6-4 freshmen, and a pair of talented guards in Bianca Thomas (15.8 ppg) and Shantell Black (5.3 assists per game).