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USF women top Houston in AAC tourney to set up UConn rematch

The Bulls allowed only six second-half field goals to the No. 4-seeded Cougars
USF women's coach Jose Fernandez points to the court during a game in January in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
USF women's coach Jose Fernandez points to the court during a game in January in Tampa. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
Published Mar. 9, 2019|Updated Mar. 9, 2019

Conventional wisdom suggested USF's hopes of reaching the Women's NIT hinged on the Bulls winning at least two games in the American Athletic Conference tournament.

The Bulls (18-14) didn’t just complete that objective, they crushed it.

A dominant third quarter propelled fifth-seeded USF to a 72-55 romp of No. 4 Houston (15-15) in Saturday’s quarterfinals in Uncasville, Conn. The Bulls face top-seeded Connecticut in Sunday’s 4 p.m. quarterfinal on ESPN2.

They fell to the Huskies, 57-47, at home on Monday, but led at halftime and trailed by only a possession with fewer than four minutes to play. UConn two-time All-American Katie Lou Samuelson (back spasms), who missed that game, has been ruled out of the conference tournament.

Getting to the semifinals “is what we expect to do,” Bulls coach Jose Fernandez said. “We expect to play for a championship. We expect to play on Monday night.”

On Saturday, the Bulls trailed by a point at halftime but outscored the Cougars, 21-6, in the third period, holding Houston scoreless in the final 5:22. The Cougars went 6-for-29 from the floor (21 percent) in the second half, hitting one of 10 3-point tries.

USF, by contrast, went 8-for-13 in the period, hitting three of six from long range. Freshman point guard Sydni Harvey (game-high 20 points) had both her 3-pointers in the third.

“We just needed to come out with great energy and just outwork them and that’s what we did,” said Bulls sophomore guard Enna Pehadzic, who had 16 points and five rebounds. “We needed to let our defense lead into our offense.”

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

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