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USF women surge past SMU to clinch 2nd American Athletic Conference crown

The Bulls win their second league title in the past three seasons.
 
USF women's basketball Jose Fernandez, right, has guided the Bulls to their second American Athletic Conference regular season title in the last three seasons.
USF women's basketball Jose Fernandez, right, has guided the Bulls to their second American Athletic Conference regular season title in the last three seasons. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]
Published Feb. 18, 2023|Updated Feb. 19, 2023

A game that began slowly for USF’s women ended historically.

Defensively challenged in the first half, the Bulls used a decisive third-quarter surge to pull away for a 70-62 triumph over SMU on Saturday at the Yuengling Center, clinching their second American Athletic Conference title in three years.

USF (24-5, 13-1 AAC) earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which starts March 6 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Down by seven in the second quarter, the Bulls finished the half with a 14-5 run, capped by senior guard Elena Tsineke’s driving left-handed layup at the buzzer. They followed with a 13-1 run in the third to build a 46-34 lead, holding the Mustangs (15-9, 6-6) without a field goal for nearly seven minutes during one stretch.

USF’s lead never fell below seven points the rest of the way. SMU, which shot nearly 50% from the floor in the opening half (11-of-25), was 10-of-28 (35.7%) in the last 20 minutes.

Tsineke led all scorers with 27 points, while 6-foot-4 classmate Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu — scoreless in the first quarter — recovered to notch her 54th career double double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and third in a row. Junior Sammie Puisis scored 18, hitting all three of her 3-pointers in the fourth.

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