TAMPA — Long before the Maryland-Connecticut national semifinal was set, USF coach Jose Fernandez had studied both, hitting the proverbial books as early as November. His homework tells him the Huskies' ability to run the floor could be too much for the Terrapins to overcome.
Fernandez's club is among the handful of common opponents shared by the Huskies and Terps. With an injury-besieged lineup, USF fell to Maryland 85-67 on Nov. 19, then lost to the top-ranked Huskies three times thereafter. The Bulls (27-8), who reached the NCAA Tournament's second round, remain one of three teams (Dayton and Stanford are the others) to outscore UConn in a half this season. Here are his thoughts on the matchup:
"The one thing that Maryland does have is post play inside in (6-foot-3 sophomore) Brionna Jones and (6-4 junior) Malina Howard. My concern is, are those post guys going to be able to defend Connecticut in transition? That's gonna be the biggest question mark.
"Connecticut does such a great job in transition because, one through five, they all run the floor I think better than anyone in the country."
Fernandez said he likes the matchup between Terrapins sophomore Lexie Brown (13.4 ppg, 4.6 assists) and Huskies junior Moriah Jefferson (12.3 ppg, 4.9 assists) at the point. On the wing, he feels the Terrapins' length and athleticism should enable them to defend effectively. The prevailing question is, how will they defend when the Huskies get out on the break?
"Connecticut is just so efficient offensively, that's why they're such a tough matchup.
"But Maryland is in the Final Four for a reason. They lost from their roster one of the best players in the country in (three-time ACC Player of the Year) Alyssa Thomas, so for them to get back to the Final Four without Alyssa Thomas is a testament to what (Coach Brenda) Frese has done with this group."