TAMPA — Senior guard Shantia Grace, playing on her home floor for perhaps the final time, had a game-high 18 points and seven assists to lead USF to a 74-57 win against Mississippi on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the Women's NIT.
The Bulls (24-10) have won back-to-back postseason games for the first time. They will play at St. Bonaventure on Sunday.
USF trailed by 10 in the first half and by two at halftime, but four senior starters — Grace, Jazmine Sepulveda, Jessica Lawson and Brittany Denson —- scored in a 16-4 run to open the half, giving USF a 54-44 lead in front of 636 in the Sun Dome.
"Those four seniors — I told Jaz to tell those guys (at halftime), 'Don't let this be the last 20 minutes of your career, especially on your home floor,' " coach Jose Fernandez said. "They came out and took care of business in the second half."
Mississippi (18-15) wouldn't get closer than five from then on, with USF's seniors leading the way. The Rebels scored two in the final 8:50.
Junior Janae Stokes had 13 points, all in five minutes of the first half, to help the Bulls overcome a 14-4 deficit.
"She's the type of kid that can get on a roll and thinks that basket is 4 feet wide," Fernandez said. "Everything she throws up."
Lawson had 10 points and eight rebounds, and junior Porche Grant had 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench.