DALLAS — Move over, Geno, it’s now Jose atop the AAC coaching mountain.
Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu scored 21, Sammie Puisis had a double double, and No. 25 USF rallied past SMU 65-63 Saturday, giving Jose Fernandez his record-setting coaching victory.
Fernandez, in his 23rd season as coach of the Bulls, won his 119th game in the American Athletic Conference, passing UConn’s Geno Auriemma for first place on the all-time list. Auriemma’s Huskies never lost a conference game in their seven seasons (2013-20) in the AAC; they left for the Big East after the 2019-20 season.
USF (22-4, 11-0 AAC) won its 12th straight and matched the 2020-21 team for the program’s best start in AAC play. It’s the second-longest overall winning streak in program history, one shy of tying the record, also set by the 2020-21 team.
A quick 7-0 run capped by Marina Asensio’s 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter put the Bulls up 57-55, their first lead of the second half. Upset-minded SMU responded with two 3s from Jasmine Smith and the Mustangs led 63-59 with 4:07 remaining, but they would not score again.
USF scored the next six points, capped by back-to-back layups from Fankam Mendjiadeu for a 65-63 lead with 59 seconds remaining. Still trailing by two, SMU forced a turnover with 16 seconds left, but Chantae Embry missed a driving layup and Puisis grabbed the rebound with five seconds left. SMU came up with another steal, but Aerial Wilson blocked Smith’s 3-pointer as time was running out.
Puisis had 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Elena Tsineke scored 15 for the Bulls. Fankam Mendjiadeu grabbed eight rebounds.
The Bulls had a 42-24 rebounding advantage and went 16-for-16 from the free-throw line.
Smith scored 26 and Savannah Wilkinson and Reagan Bradley 14 each for the Mustangs (14-7, 5-4).
SMU scored the final six points of the first quarter to take an 18-8 lead, and Bradley opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer for a 13-point lead. The Bulls battled back and took a 30-28 lead when Fankam Mendjiadeu completed a three-point play with 1:43 left in the first half. The score was tied at 32 at halftime.
After an early tie, SMU led throughout the third but never by more than six. The Bulls were within 47-45 after a steal and a fastbreak layup by Asensio before Wilkinson scored four of the Mustangs’ last six points of the quarter for a 53-48 lead heading to the fourth.