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With top player injured, No. 21 USF women roll past Oklahoma

Senior wing Laura Ferreira sinks eight 3-pointers en route to a career-high 34 points
The USF women gave coach Jose Fernandez a 17-point win against Oklahoma on Sunday, his 48th birthday. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
The USF women gave coach Jose Fernandez a 17-point win against Oklahoma on Sunday, his 48th birthday. (JOEY KNIGHT | Times)
Published Nov. 18, 2018

TAMPA — On perhaps the most bittersweet of USF women's coach Jose Fernandez's 48 birthdays, his team presented him with two gifts.

A convincing triumph against a Power Five foe, with some long-term optimism tossed in. After the weekend Fernandez has experienced, he badly needed both.

Three days after losing top scorer and All-America candidate Kitija Laksa to a season-ending knee injury, Fernandez watched senior wing Laura Ferreira explode for a career-high 34 points in the No. 21 Bulls' 87-70 romp Sunday of Oklahoma (2-1).

"We had two great practices. We've got incredible character in that locker room," said Fernandez, who lost Laksa in the third quarter of Thursday's 88-39 win against Bethune-Cookman.

"Our goals haven't changed. … We don't have a lot of room for error, so we talk about let's just play five minutes at a time, and they did that."

Before an announced Yuengling Center crowd of 2,804, Ferreira led an ensemble effort that included three other double-figure scorers.

Among them was junior forward Alyssa Rader, who notched her second career double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds). For the game, USF went 13-for-27 from 3-point range, with Ferreira (a career 29.4-percent 3-point shooter) going 8-for-11.

Defensively, the 5-foot-11 Portugal native helped neutralize 5-foot-7 sophomore Shaina Pellington, who had totaled 57 points in OU's first two contests.

Pellington finished with seven points, going 3-for-11 from the floor.

"Laura's coming off a 21-point game (vs. Albany) and 19-point game (vs. BCU), but tonight was special," Fernandez said. "We're gonna win a lot of games if she does that every night."

OU broke out to a 14-5 lead as the Bulls (4-0) committed three turnovers in the game's first three minutes, but the Bulls responded with an 11-0 run, hitting three of four 3-pointers.

They led by four entering the final quarter, but went on a 12-2 surge to open the period, with Rader totaling six points and two rebounds during that stretch.

"It's incredibly hard to lose such an amazing player like (Laksa)," Rader said. "But I think that just gives opportunities for all of us to collectively come together and show everyone else we're still a team to beat."

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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