TAMPA — The USF women, widely projected to be the American Athletic Conference’s second-best team, earned undisputed ownership of that distinction with Sunday’s 62-45 rout of rival UCF.
The victory, avenging a four-point home loss to the Knights last Valentine’s Day, gives the Bulls (14-4, 4-1) sole possession of second place in the league behind top-ranked Connecticut. UCF (11-7, 3-2) fell into a three-way tie for third.
Forced to establish itself inside against the Knights’ zone, USF converted six of its first eight field goals in the paint en route to a 17-10 lead. Holding UCF to essentially one shot per possession, the Bulls followed with a 13-0 run midway through the game for a 36-14 advantage.
USF outrebounded the Knights 48-30, limiting UCF to six offensive boards.
"I think the key to this game was how our players defended," Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said. "I thought we played really good team defense, and we held ’em to one shot and out."
Junior Kitija Laksa scored 13 of her 16 in the second half to lead the Bulls, who had six players with at least five rebounds. Knights senior Aliyah Gregory, a Strawberry Crest alumnus who scored 34 in last year’s win against USF, finished with only four.
"We waited like, a year to get this game back, and I think we really prepared in practice," said Bulls senior point guard Laia Flores (14 points, four assists). "We tried to do different things than we did last year, and it turned out good."
NO. 13 FSU 107, VA. TECH 62: Shakayla Thomas scored 21, Ama Degbeon had 10 points and 13 rebounds and the host Seminoles (16-2, 4-1 ACC) tied a school record with their fifth 100-point game of the season.
LSU 66, FLORIDA 59: The host Gators (8-10, 0-5 SEC) were outscored 21-9 in the third quarter and lost their fourth straight by single digits. Florida’s Haley Lorenzen tied her career high of 20 points and added 10 rebounds.
NO. 2 N. DAME 89, BC 60: Jessica Shepard scored 24 in 22 minutes as the host Irish (16-2, 5-1 ACC) bounced back from their most lopsided loss in 16 seasons, a 33-point defeat at Louisville.
NO. 4 MISS. ST. 75, ALABAMA 61: Victoria Vivians scored 21, Teaira McCowan added 19 and the host Bulldogs (19-0, 5-0 SEC) won their 11th straight by double digits. They now get a week of rest to prepare for a showdown at Tennessee.
NO. 5 BAYLOR 74, OKLA. 52: Dekeiya Cohen scored 16 for the visiting Bears (15-1, 5-0 Big 12), who won their 12th straight, all by at least 22 points.
NO. 6 TENN. 86, NO. 9 S.C. 70: Jaime Nared scored 19 as the visiting Vols (16-1, 4-1 SEC) bounced back from their first loss. The Gamecocks (14-3, 3-2) played without All-American A’ja Wilson, sidelined by a right ankle sprain.
NO. 8 OREGON 74, NO. 18 ARIZ. ST. 64: Sabrina Ionescu scored 26 and Ruthy Hebard added 20 for the host Ducks (17-2, 6-0 Pac-12), who won their ninth straight game.
NO. 3 UVA 68, N.C. STATE 51: Devon Hall scored a career-best 25 as the host Cavaliers (16-1, 5-0 ACC) won their eighth straight game. Virginia has won 11 straight regular-season meetings with the Wolfpack.
EX-WHARTON STAR DECLARES: Former Wharton High quarterback Chase Litton, who has thrown for more than 8,000 yards in three seasons as Marshall’s starter, announced via Twitter he is declaring for the NFL draft. The 6-foot-6, 232-pound Litton ranks fourth in Marshall history in completions (727), fifth in passing yards (8,332) and fourth in touchdown passes (72). This season, he completed 60 percent of his passes (266-of-443) for 3,115 yards with 25 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
SUMLIN TO ARIZONA: Arizona reached an agreement to hire Kevin Sumlin as coach, ESPN reported. Sumlin, 53, was 51-26 in six seasons at Texas A&M before being fired and replaced by former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher. Sumlin also spent four years at Houston, going 35-17, including 12-1 his final season in 2011. Sumlin will replace Rich Rodriguez, who was fired this month in the wake of a sexual harassment allegation.
Information from Times wires was used in this report. Contact Joey Knight at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.