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USF women overcome ‘atrocious’ first half to defeat SMU

The No. 22 Bulls pull away despite only 22 first-half points
USF women's coach Jose Fernandez gives his team instructions prior to Wednesday night's game against SMU at the Sun Dome. The No. 22 Bulls prevail 64-54. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
USF women's coach Jose Fernandez gives his team instructions prior to Wednesday night's game against SMU at the Sun Dome. The No. 22 Bulls prevail 64-54. [JOEY KNIGHT | Times]
Published Feb. 15, 2018
Updated Feb. 15, 2018

TAMPA — They hit the Sun Dome floor Wednesday night with their collective shooting touch lodged somewhere back in Sunday afternoon.

It took the USF Bulls more than 30 minutes to retrieve it.

Three nights after the USF women's de facto shooting clinic against Ohio State, the No. 22 Bulls overcame a frigid first half to pull away for a 64-54 victory against SMU before an announced Sun Dome crowd of 2,004.

"I want to apologize to all the fans that took time out on their Valentine's Day to come and watch that," said Coach Jose Fernandez, whose team managed only 22 first-half points en route to a four-point halftime lead. "It was not a pretty basketball game, that's for sure.

The 22 points were the lowest in an opening half for USF (21-5, 10-2 American Athletic Conference) against any foe not named UConn this season. In the wake of an 11-for-22 effort from 3-point range in their 19-point romp of the Buckeyes, the Bulls went 2-of-14 from behind the arc in the first half and 7-of-34 from the floor overall against SMU (10-16, 4-9).

Junior Kitija Laksa, who had 41 points against OSU, scored four in the first 30 minutes, going 1-of-10 from the floor.

"We held 'em to 18 points … but we shot the ball atrocious in the first 20 minutes," Fernandez said. "It was just awful. I thought we were putting the ball down on the floor — that was the first thing we were doing. Our offense did not have a lot of rhythm to it in that first half."

But the Bulls hit their first four shots of the second half during a decisive 11-0 run. They shot nearly 50 percent from the floor (13-of-27) after halftime, including a 7-of-11 effort from long range.

Senior forward Maria Jespersen led the Bulls with 28 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for her 14th double double of the season. Laksa finished with 16.

"We come out in the third quarter, we move it, we make the extra pass and made shots," Fernandez said.

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.