TAMPA — The USF women’s basketball team defeated Memphis 58-45 on Wednesday night at Yuengling Center, but the Bulls were not happy.
They were frustrated primarily with their turnovers (18) and rebounding (a 35-33 advantage), as well as lapses in intensity that led to large leads dwindling to a few points.
The victory pushed the Bulls to 15-4 overall and 4-0 in the American Athletic Conference, but coach Jose Fernandez believes his team — which has been ranked outside the top 25 all season — can play much, much better.
“There is a reason we’re not in the top 25,” Fernandez said. “If you are a top-25 voter and you watch this game, why should you vote for us? We’re at home. We should be playing better than this. Something has to change, and I hope it does. Otherwise, we’re going to get beat.”
USF, which has won five in a row and eight of its last 10, is 2-4 this year against top-25 teams, including an 88-86 overtime loss to No. 3 Ohio State on Dec. 20.
“Yes, our losses are against ranked teams,” said junior sharp-shooting guard Sammie Puisis, “but the teams we’re playing in our conference, we need to beat them by more. We can’t keep sliding by, because it’s going to catch up to us.”
Senior center Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu, who this week was one of 21 players selected to the U.S. Basketball Writers Association national player of the year midseason watch list, put it succinctly.
“I know we can play much better,” she said. “We shouldn’t have a game like this where we have 18 turnovers. We can play so much better.”
The Bulls showed flashes of how good they can be in the last five minutes of the first quarter and the last five minutes of the third quarter, spans in which they didn’t turn the ball over and went on big runs to take two their largest leads, 17-8 to end the first and 9-0 in the third to go ahead 47-34.
“We’re a good basketball team when we don’t turn the ball over,” Fernandez said. “Turnovers have been the biggest issue with this team all year long. We’re shooting at a high percentage (44.9 percent from the floor and 40 percent from 3-point range Wednesday), but then we’re turning it over and giving teams all these extra possessions.”
Memphis (9-8, 1-3) never led, but the Tigers did cut their deficit to a few points on a few occasions.
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Once again, guard Elena Tsineke led USF with a game-high 14 points. She was followed by Fankam Mendjiadeu (12 points and 15 rebounds for her 13th double double) and Puisis, who finished with 10 points.
In the end, however, Fernandez emphasized that the performance was not good enough.
“There is a right way to win, and there is a wrong way to win,” Fernandez said. “(On Wednesday), we won the wrong way. We’ve got to do better. This team can be much better than what it showed (Wednesday). We must find a way to play better. I believe we can.”
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