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Hard work pays off for USF Bulls women's basketball player Grace

TAMPA — Senior G Shantia Grace set a USF basketball record for men and women by scoring 44 points in a 97-43 win against Coppin State on Sunday. What might be most impressive about her game, which included a USF record eight 3-pointers, is that she outscored the opponent by herself while playing 28 minutes.

"I didn't want to overdo it," said Grace, who watched the final 4:39 from the bench against a team that won 22 games last season and made the NCAA Tournament.

Grace went 8-for-13 beyond the arc, impressive considering she had gone 4-for-19 in the Bulls' first three games, 21 percent.

"I wasn't happy with my shot, so the day before I was in the gym shooting, all day and all night," said Grace, who estimated she spent four hours in the gym, taking 500 to 600 3-pointers. "So when the first one went in Sunday, I was like, 'I'm good to go.' It was one of those nights."

Her 44 points were nine more than her previous high at USF; she doesn't recall scoring more than 34 or 36 in high school. It reset the Bulls' women's mark of 39 points, set by LaTonya Greer in 1997, and is two more than the USF men's record, set by Charlie Bradley in 1982.

Grace's outburst shows USF's focus on playing an uptempo style. "We don't even look at the shot clock," she said. The Bulls have scored at least 94 in each game in their 4-0 start after doing so 10 times in coach Jose Fernandez's first eight seasons.

The Bulls are in the Virgin Islands this week, and their competition gets a lot tougher. The have a game Thursday against No. 3 California, which has held three opponents to an average of 48 points per game and beat No. 2 Rutgers 66-52 on Friday.

WILL HE GO? The biggest story of USF football's offseason might be whether junior DE George Selvie opts to return or enter the NFL draft early. Selvie has said he'll submit his name to the NFL's underclassmen advisory board to get a sense of where he might be take — mock drafts from the media project him as a first-round pick — but he also has said he won't think about the decision until after the season.

Selvie was limited again by an ankle injury in Sunday's win against Connecticut (he was held to one tackle), but the defensive end made a postgame comment about wanting to be a part of next year's final home game.

"It's great to send the seniors off with a good win because they've played so hard every year they've been through this," he said. "To have somebody go out and play for you, for your last game, for you to win, it's great. That's what I want people to do for me when I play my senior year next year."

NOT SCORING: Sunday's win obscures the consistent dropoff of USF's football scoring. This is the first time in the Bulls' 12 years that the team has scored 20 or fewer in four straight games.

The defense, which has struggled this season, has allowed the Bulls to win without scoring much. Since moving to Division I-A in 2001, USF before this season had had just one win when scoring 17 or fewer, 16-13 against Southern Miss in 2002. The Bulls have done it twice in '08, scoring 17 in wins against Florida International and Connecticut.

The Bulls won Sunday despite gaining only 11 first downs and totaling 247 yards of offense, the lowest totals in a USF victory since 2003, when the Bulls mustered eight and 192 in a 21-16 win against Memphis, a span of 34 wins. The 11 first downs were the fewest in any game, win or lose, since they had eight in a 34-3 loss at South Carolina in 2004.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.

Hard work pays off for USF Bulls women's basketball player Grace 11/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 9:09pm]

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