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South Florida Bulls beat Kansas in Women's NIT final

LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jasmine Wynne cupped her hands around her mouth as the decibel level rose above 100 before Saturday afternoon's WNIT championship tipoff inside Allen Fieldhouse.

Wynne, USF's freshman guard, screamed across the basketball floor to teammate Shantia Grace.

"I can't hear myself think," Wynne yelled.

Grace didn't respond. She couldn't hear, either. Once the contest began, however, Wynne, Grace and the rest of the Bulls made enough noise on the court to escape with a 75-71 victory against the Kansas Jayhawks and capture the school's first national postseason tournament title of any kind.

The mayhem came courtesy of an announced crowd of 16,113, the largest to watch a game for either program. It also marked the second-largest crowd in WNIT history and the largest home crowd for a women's game in Big 12 history.

"At first, it was kind of loud and disturbing," said Grace, a senior playing her last collegiate game. "It was so loud, your ears were ringing. You couldn't hear yourself breathe."

Then the game began, and USF quickly established control.

The Bulls took a 38-30 lead into halftime behind 10 points from guard Jazmine Sepulveda.

"I told our guys the crowd's not going to score any points," USF coach Jose Fernandez said. "The crowd's not going to defend you."

USF led by as much as 61-49 in the second half on Grace's layup and free throw with 7:19 left. A 17-6 Kansas run over the next five minutes trimmed the lead to 67-66.

Bulls center Jessica Lawson responded with a layup on the next possession, and the Bulls made four free throws down the stretch to hold on.

Sepulveda and Grace both were named to the all-tournament team, with Grace being selected as the WNIT most valuable player.

USF (27-10) closed the season by winning five consecutive games.

"We tried to show the committee and everybody else that we deserved to be in the NCAAs," Grace said. "Yeah, it was a bad moment when we didn't get in, but I guess this is our blessing, to win the WNIT."

NOTE: Fans can greet the team this morning at Tampa International Airport. It's scheduled to arrive at 10:40 a.m. (Southwest Airlines Flight 2417).

USF 75

Kansas 71

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XX innings

South Florida Bulls beat Kansas in Women's NIT final 04/04/09 [Last modified: Sunday, April 5, 2009 1:35am]

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