In a season when they've overcome adversity and odds, USF's women couldn't overcome a miserable offensive effort Sunday.
As a result, their quest for 20 wins and a WNIT championship came to an end. The Bulls (19-16) shot 31.7 percent from the floor (19-for-60) and went 2-for-14 from 3-point range in a 71-54 second-round loss to James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va.
Up by a point after one quarter, the Bulls managed only two second-period field goals as the Dukes ended the half with an 18-1 run for a 42-26 lead at intermission. They cut their deficit to seven midway through the second half, but went 3-for-14 from the floor in the final 10 minutes.
“We beat ourselves,” Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said on USF’s official radio broadcast. “I thought we didn’t close out that first quarter when we were up five, and then it trickled to the second quarter when they shot (71.4) percent from the floor.”
Buoyed by the return of junior guard Kamiah Smalls (17 points) from a hand injury, the Dukes (27-5) shot nearly 50 percent from the floor and hit 10 3-pointers. Guard Jackie Benitez led the hosts with 26 points, finishing 7-for-15 from long range.
“They got excited with (Smalls) coming back,” Fernandez said. “If she doesn’t get hurt in their conference tournament, they’re in the NCAA Tournament right now.”
Low-post standouts Tamara Henshaw and Shae Leverett combined for 26 points and 16 rebounds to lead the Bulls, who had three starters on the shelf to season-ending injuries by early January.
“We didn’t get to 20 wins like we wanted to, but we got a lot from this bunch,” Fernandez said. “Now we’ve got to get them better in the offseason.”