TAMPA — A sloppy first half for the No. 21 USF women didn’t make their American Athletic Conference win over East Carolina easy Saturday afternoon.
But Bethy Mununga’s double double — her 13th in 37 games — helped as the Bulls (7-1, 4-0) won their sixth straight game, 71-58 at the Yuengling Center in front of home fans for the first time this season.
USF’s announced attendance for the game and the men’s game that followed was 1,016.
Mununga had a game-high 23 points, a career high, shooting 7-of-11 from the field and 9-of-12 from the free-throw line. Mununga’s previous best was 16 points three times, the most recent against Cincinnati last season.
The 6-foot forward also had a career-high 21 rebounds against the Pirates (5-4, 3-1), surpassing her previous best of 17 at Tulane last season.
“I thought she was outstanding,” coach Jose Fernandez said. “She had a special night. She definitely started off the year in a great way, but this is the type of thing that Bethy can do night in and night out.”
Mununga is the eighth Bulls player with a 20-20 game and the first since Alisia Jenkins’ 27-20 game Dec. 3, 2015, against Harvard.
“(Mununga) rebounded on both sides of the floor and just finished around the rim,” Fernandez said.
As Mununga exited the court with 48 seconds to go in the game, she was greeted with applause from her teammates and coaches, and the fans.
“I’m really happy because this is the proof of my work,” Mununga said. “I’ve been working pretty hard. And I’m really thankful to have the staff that I have because they’ve been putting a lot of pressure on me lately to be more offensive and they have really helped me out.”
The Bulls were slow to get on track, shooting 8-of-23 from the field in the first half, including 2-of-12 on 3-pointers.
East Carolina’s aggressive defense, however, gave USF numerous opportunities from the free-throw line. The Bulls were 14-of-18, which helped give them a 32-28 halftime lead.
The Bulls’ shooting improved some in the second half. They were 11-of-25 from the field, 3-of-10 on 3-pointers. Mununga controlled the inside especially in the second half, when she outrebounded the Pirates 15-12 and scored 11 points.
Sydni Harvey added 11 points for the Bulls.
Fernandez was prepared for a tough battle against the Pirates. East Carolina entered the game averaging 65.3 points, fourth best in the conference, and was the only other 3-0 conference team.
“We knew the type of game this was going to be,” Fernandez said. “East Carolina has a really good basketball team. They defend and make you play a certain way. You have to do a great job of taking care of the basketball against them.
Sierra DaCosta and Lashonda Monk had 13 points apiece for East Carolina.
“They have really good perimeter players in DaCosta and Monk and (Taniyah) Thompson, where those three guys on any night can score and score in bunches,” Fernandez said.
The Bulls’ next scheduled game is Wednesday at home against conference foe Wichita State.
“We move on,” Fernandez said. “Now you’re in league play, every game is going to be tough.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Contact Mari Faiello at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @faiello_mari.
vs. Wichita State, Wednesday at 7 p.m.
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