TAMPA — Trailing Stetson 38-37 with 15 minutes left Saturday afternoon, the USF women's team turned up its defense and pulled away to a 70-48 win, ending on a 33-10 run in its opener in the Sun Dome.
The Bulls got a spark with three backcourt steals in 19 seconds, leading to six quick points to start an 11-0 run. USF outrebounded Stetson 60-35, led by Tahira Johnson's career-best 13.
Coach Jose Fernandez liked that his team shook off its first 25 minutes.
"We won by 22 and didn't play very well. When you look at the score, it's a little misleading," Fernandez said. "You won by 22, but you were down by one with 15 minutes to go. … I think our defensive intensity and our speed and our depth wore them down a little. You get some steals, you feed off your defense a little bit."
USF got a promising return from senior guard Andrea Smith, who played for the first time since tearing an ACL at the end of the 2010-11 season. She had a game-high 18 points and four steals.
"It felt really good to be out there and do something I've been missing for a long time," Smith said. "Just coming out there, feeding off my teammates, their intensity and hard work, it made me want to go out there and give it all I had."
Freshman Courtney Williams, who started at point guard, had nine points. Backup Kaneisha Saunders had four assists against Stetson (0-2).
NO. 6 KENTUCKY 90, DELAWARE ST. 50: A'dia Mathies scored 16 for the host Wildcats (1-0), who cruised in a warmup for Tuesday's showdown with No. 1 Baylor.
NO. 12 OKLA. 69, CREIGHTON 48: Aaryn Ellenberg had 19 points and Whitney Hand had 14 points and eight rebounds for the visiting Sooners in their opener.
NO. 16 VANDY 82, MCNEESE ST. 71: Tiffany Clarke scored 14 of her 24 in the second half for the host Commodores in the opener for both.
NO. 21 PURDUE 82, SC-UPSTATE 47: KK Houser had 17 points, leading four players in double figures for the host Boilermakers in their opener.
DAYTON 92, NO. 25 DEPAUL 80: Amber Deane scored 27 to lead the visiting Flyers (2-0) in the final of the Maggie Dixon Classic. Jasmine Penny led the Blue Demons (1-1) with 20 points.
TAMPA 73, VA. INTERMONT 49: Freshman Juliana Cavallaro led all scorers with 26 as the host Spartans (2-0) won for the second time in two nights at the Spartans' Challenge.
AVE MARIA 69, SAINT LEO 58: The Lions took their first loss in the Spartans' Challenge. Chelsea Connelly had 12 points and a team-high 14 rebounds for Saint Leo (1-1).
LATE FRIDAY: Eckerd lost 68-57 at Armstrong Atlantic in Savannah, Ga. Junior Liga Vente had 16 points and 14 rebounds for the Tritons (0-2).
NO. 15 MISSOURI 83, SIU EDWARDSVILLE 69: Laurence Bowers had 20 points and seven rebounds in his return after missing last season with a knee injury for the host Tigers. Bowers outscored the Cougars 10-2 by himself in a two-minute stretch early in the second half for Missouri (1-0).
NO. 22 ND 58, EVANSVILLE 49: Jack Cooley scored the first nine points of the game and finished with 19 and Scott Martin pulled down 17 rebounds for host Notre Dame (1-0) in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
LATE FRIDAY: Jordan Adams scored 21 in his college debut and fellow newcomer Kyle Anderson had 10 points and 10 rebounds as No. 13 UCLA defeated visiting Indiana State 86-59 in the opener for both.
Information from Times wires was used in this report.