Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

USF Bulls count on Akila McDonald

LUBBOCK, Texas — Akila McDonald isn't sure exactly when it dawned on her, but at some point during the past year the USF junior forward came to a realization.

"I just had to take a lot more from my coaches and understand that what they say is pretty much the best thing for me," she said. "I guess it was more so listening and closing my mouth. That got me in some trouble the past couple years."

McDonald let her game do the talking Saturday, when she had seven points and seven rebounds and knocked down a pair of key shots down the stretch in the Bulls' 71-70 win over Texas Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"It felt really good," said McDonald, who entered the tournament averaging 3.7 points. "It's not a lot of times when I'm a big offensive threat, so it was good to put some points on the board and get us up a little bit."

McDonald's contributions, including a jumper with 2:44 to go that tied the score at 61, helped move USF into the second round of the Spokane Region, where the 10th-seeded Bulls will take on No. 2-seeded California at 9:45 tonight on ESPN2.

If USF (22-10) is to make the program's first Sweet 16 appearance, it will have to find a way to contain Cal's formidable front line. Forwards Gennifer Brandon (12.5 points, 11.3 rebounds per game), Talia Caldwell (9.3, 7.3) and Reshanda Gray (8.4, 4.9) were a major reason the Bears (29-3) earned a share of the Pac-12 title this season.

That trio combined for 43 points and 25 rebounds during Cal's 90-76 first-round win against Fresno State.

"It's going to be crucial," USF coach Jose Fernandez said, "that we don't take plays off. I think the game is going to be won or lost in the paint."

That may put a heavy onus on McDonald — who Fernandez said "has matured a lot" — to not only stay out of foul trouble but also find ways to contribute offensively again, with Cal likely to home in on perimeter players Andrea and Andrell Smith and Inga Orekhova.

Her teammates are confident McDonald is ready for the challenge.

"I felt as if we all fed off Akila's energy and physicality" against Tech, Andrell Smith said. "I think she is going to have a good game because she is a very aggressive and physical player. We feed off that and she knows that."

The Bulls took a few hours to celebrate their thrilling win against Tech on Saturday night, but by Sunday afternoon they made it clear they have greater visions in store.

"Of course we are not satisfied with winning one game," said Orekhova, who scored 20 in the first-round victory. "It was our goal, winning the game, but now we have to take the next step."

USF Bulls count on Akila McDonald 03/24/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 24, 2013 8:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Roberto Aguayo, Jonathan Drouin, Tim Beckham are coming for revenge


    Forget the Three Tenors.

    Make it the Three Terrors.

    The 2017 Unfulfilled Expectations Tour is about to hit Tampa Bay.

    From left, former Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo, ex-Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin and former Rays infielder Tim Beckham. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times; DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times; Getty Images]
  2. Longest home run at Trop and Erasmo Ramirez's pitching doom Rays (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Kevin Kiermaier returned. The problem was, so did Erasmo Ramirez.

    Mariners designated hitter Nelson Cruz celebrates his Trop-record 482-foot home run in the ninth inning.
  3. Rays journal: Kevin Kiermaier returns, Mallex Smith sent to Triple A

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It didn't take CF Kevin Kiermaier long to make his presence felt during his return Friday to the Rays lineup. Kiermaier pretended to have Mariners DH Nelson Cruz's first-inning line drive lined up even as the ball went past him to his right and to the wall.

    Tampa Bay Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier (39) flies out in the first inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 18, 2017.
  4. Rays vs. Mariners, 6:10 p.m. Saturday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Mariners

    6:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    This is a 2017 photo of Jake Odorizzi of the Tampa Bay Rays baseball team. This image reflects the 2017 active roster as of Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017 when this image was taken. (AP Photo/David Goldman)