Stringfield seals the deal again for Bulls
While ankle injuries of varying degrees recently have slowed USF's two most prominent starters, Shalethia Stringfield has emerged as the Bulls' most prominent closer.
The Bulls' senior backup point guard scored 14 of her game-high 22 points in the fourth period Sunday to help her 19th-ranked team (12-4, 5-1 American Athletic Conference) hold off East Carolina, 75-54. The effort came four days after Stringfield hit a go-ahead jumper with three seconds to play in a 71-67 victory at Tulane.
"Every time Shalethia enters the game, we feel secure," sophomore wing Laura Ferreira said.
Presumably feeling less secure, at least at the outset, was the announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,101. It saw ECU (8-10, 2-4) build a seven-point first-half lead as the Bulls committed six turnovers in the first seven minutes, and watched forward Maria Jespersen pick up two first-quarter fouls.
The foul trouble, coupled with other low-post matchup concerns, prompted Coach Jose Fernandez to test all-time USF rebounding leader Alisia Jenkins' sprained left ankle.
Jenkins, who had totaled six minutes in USF's previous three games, finished with 11 rebounds in 21 minutes. "We're a different team with her in there," Fernandez said.
Meantime, classmate Courtney Williams, also nursing a mild ankle sprain, warmed up.
The senior All-America candidate (21 points, 11 rebounds) hit two 3-pointers in an 85-second span during an 8-0 run to end the first half, giving USF a 32-30 lead. Her trey at the end of the third period capped a 17-4 run, pushing the Bulls' lead to 53-42.
"That's why she's special," Fernandez said. "Now, her sprain was different than Jenkins' of course. But if it's somebody different, they're out for four or five days."
Stringfield helped seal things from there, hitting eight of nine free throws in the fourth.
"I think (Stringfield) gives us a different pace when she comes in, and I think she really settles down and can really watch the game," Fernandez said. "She primarily hasn't been a kid that's started for us, but she finishes."