HARTFORD, Conn. — Jose Fernandez looked at the stat sheet and shook his head. His team shot 23 percent and was badly outrebounded on the offensive boards yet still found a way to get a much-needed win.
The No. 8 seed Bulls trailed by five with 4:49 left before scoring the game's final eight en route to a 42-39 victory over No. 9 seed Rutgers on Saturday in the second round of the Big East tournament.
Andrea Smith scored 17, including a free throw with 1:19 left that gave USF its first lead of the game, 40-39.
The Bulls shot 13-of-57 from the field and made 5 of 28 3-pointers (17.9 percent). They were outrebounded 33-30 overall but 11-6 on the offensive glass.
"We didn't shoot the ball very well," Fernandez said. "It wasn't a fun game for people to watch; it was a boxing match back and forth. I'm sure we saved a lot of makes for (today), that's for sure."
They face top seed Notre Dame at 2 today in the quarterfinals in a game broadcast on ESPNU and 1010-AM. USF lost in overtime to the Irish during the regular season.
"We played them already, we showed everybody that we can play against all the teams," said Inga Orehkova, who hit two free throws with 2.3 seconds left to seal the win. "We went into overtime against them and played as a team."
Fernandez believes his team has done enough to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament if it can't win the conference.
"We won 20 games, went 9-7 in the Big East," he said. "This was a must-win game for us to get to solidify an at-large bid, and we did that."
The Bulls (21-9) missed 16 of their first 17 shots, yet they were down only 14-3 midway through the first half. They rallied and trailed 19-18 at halftime.
"At the seven-minute media timeout in the first half, we were down 12 and go into halftime down one," a big change in momentum, Fernandez said.
Rutgers (16-14) likely will miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 seasons.
MORE BIG EAST: Shenneika Smith had 16 points to lead fifth-seeded St. John's (18-11) to a 51-45 win over Seton Hall. … Anna Martin scored 24 to help seventh-seeded DePaul (21-10) beat Marquette 77-69. … Laura Sweeney scored 17 and sixth-seeded Villanova (21-9) hit a tournament record 17 3-pointers to rout Georgetown 89-58.
ACC TOURNEY: Haley Peters had 17 points and 13 rebounds, and hit the go-ahead basket with 4:06 left to help top seed Duke (29-2) beat fourth seed Florida State (22-9) 72-66 in a semifinal in Greensboro, N.C. … Latifah Coleman scored 15 of her career-high 17 in the final 6-plus minutes, and No. 3 seed North Carolina (28-5) beat No. 2 Maryland (24-7) 72-65.
SEC: Courtney Williams' jumper with 33 seconds remaining gave No. 4 seed Texas A&M the lead, and the Aggies (23-9) beat top-seeded Tennessee (24-7) 66-62 in the semifinals in Duluth, Ga. … Jennifer O'Neill sank 3-pointers on each end of a 15-0 run early in the second half that gave No. 2 seed Kentucky the lead, and the Wildcats (27-4) rolled past No. 3 Georgia (25-6) 60-38.
Sunshine state: Chelsea Connelly had career highs of 20 points and 18 rebounds as sixth-seeded Saint Leo (14-14) beat seventh-seeded Tampa (19-9) 76-60 in Kissimmee and earned its first trip to the conference final. The Lions face fourth-seeded Rollins, an 83-80 winner over top-seeded Nova Southeastern, at 1 today.
Ohio valley: Rickiesha Bryant scored the first five of overtime, and Tennessee Martin (19-14) beat Tennessee Tech 87-80 in Nashville for its third straight Ohio Valley Conference tournament championship.
Atlantic sun: Sasha Sims scored 15 to help Stetson (24-8) rally for an NCAA Tournament berth with a 70-64 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in the championship game in Macon, Ga.
NO. 1 BAYLOR 80, TEXAS 47: Brittney Griner had 19 points, 13 rebounds and a career-best nine assists for the Bears (30-1) in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament in Dallas.
MICH. ST. 54, NO. 8 PENN ST. 46: Jasmine Thomas scored 14 of her 19 in the second half, and the Spartans held the Nittany Lions (25-5) to 22 percent shooting in the Big Ten tournament semifinals in Hoffman Estates, Ill.
NO. 11 DAYTON 74, GW 49: Andrea Hoover had 15 points and nine rebounds for the top-seeded Flyers (27-1) in the Atlantic 10 tournament quarterfinals in Philadelphia.
NO. 20 GREEN BAY 80, MILWAUKEE 56: Lydia Bauer scored 22 for the visiting Phoenix (26-2, 16-0 Horizon), which finished the regular season with 21 straight wins.
PURDUE 77, NO. 21 NEB. 64: KK Houser scored 13 in a terrific all-around performance for the third-seeded Boilermakers, who upset the second-seeded Cornhuskers (23-8) in the Big Ten semifinals.