USF women bounce back, roll past ECU
If Saturday's proceedings at the Sun Dome were any sign, USF is allowing the sting of the worst loss in program history to fizzle instead of fester.
Four nights after a nationally televised, 65-point humiliation at top-ranked Connecticut, the 20th-ranked Bulls responded with a 79-48 rout of East Carolina before an announced crowd of 2,090.
A 15-0 run shortly after halftime essentially sealed things for USF (14-2, 3-1 American Athletic Conference), which shot 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the floor and hit nine 3-pointers. Senior Ariadna Pujol (23 points), junior Maria Jespersen (20) and sophomore Kitija Laksa (20) led the Bulls.
"We had an off-day after the UConn game. That was terrible," Jespersen said. "We just wanted to get back in the gym and work harder so we'd be more prepared for next time."
Six minutes into Saturday's game, the Bulls already had three treys, equaling their total in a frigid long-range shooting night (3-of-20) at UConn. They built a 13-5 lead before a momentary defensive lapse -- accompanied by a scoring drought of nearly six minutes -- allowed the Pirates (10-8, 1-4) to cut their deficit to 15-14.
But a Laksa jumper with 7:09 to play in the first half started an 11-2 USF run, capped by a Jespersen 3-pointer. Laksa's trey with 15 seconds to play before halftime gave the Bulls a 35-22 lead.
Their lead never fell below single digits again. Coach Jose Fernandez's only significant beef: Allowing ECU to finish with 15 offensive rebounds after having none in the first half.
"We needed to play and put that (UConn) game behind us," said Fernandez, who seeks his 300th career win Tuesday at home against Memphis. "I think our kids put it behind us the last two days, the way that we've practiced, so that's been good."