TAMPA — USF's women may have lost their best scorer, top rebounder and sleek point guard from last season's NCAA Tournament team, but one key component stuck around: their swagger.
At least for one dominant opening night.
Exhibiting a brisk pace, a bunch of new faces and zero shyness from 3-point range, the Bulls raced to a 78-42 victory against North Florida before an announced Sun Dome audience of 1,906.
The Bulls, who watched No. 2 all-time scorer Courtney Williams become the No. 8 overall WNBA draft pick, compensated Tuesday with balance. USF finished with 16 assists, half distributed by point guard Laia Flores in a turnover-free performance.
"That was big, but we've got to shoot a higher percentage than we did because that's one of our strengths," said coach Jose Fernandez, whose team shot 26-of-71 (36.6 percent).
Four players scored at least eight points, led by 2016 American Athletic Conference freshman of the year Kitija Laksa (18 points). Laksa hit three of USF's nine 3-pointers, with five others sinking at least one. Six-foot junior Maria Jespersen (16 points, eight rebounds) and 6-1 freshman Tamara Henshaw (11 points, eight boards) were USF's other double-figure scorers.
Seffner Christian alumnus Tesh Hanson led UNF with 18.
Florida State 99, Iona 78: The host Seminoles had six players in double figures. Freshman Jonathan Isaac led the way with 20 points as the 2-0 Seminoles shot 58 percent from the floor (34 of 59) and were 30 of 42 when not shooting 3-pointers. Phil Cofer had 13 points and six rebounds while Terrance Mann (12), Jarquez Smith (12), Trent Forrest (10) and Dwayne Bacon (10) also had double figures. UConn transfer Sam Cassell Jr., the son of former NBA and FSU standout Sam Cassell, led Iona with 28 points.
No. 2 Kentucky 69, No. 13 Michigan St. 48: Freshman Malik Monk scored 23 on 7-for-11 shooting from 3-point range, and Isaiah Briscoe added 21 as the Wildcats won easily in the State Farm Champions Classic at Madison Square Garden. Kentucky (3-0) averaged 90 points in its first two games but this time won with defense. The Spartans (0-2) shot 32.8 percent (20 of 61) including 5 of 26 (19.2 percent) from beyond the arc.
Baylor 66, No. 4 Oregon 49: Johnathan Motley scored 17 for the host Bears. The Ducks are missing forward Dillon Brooks, their leading scorer last season who is still recovering from offseason foot surgery.
No. 8 Virginia 72, St. Francis Brooklyn 32: The host Cavaliers held the Terriers scoreless for a stretch of more than 10 minutes in the first half and scored 20 straight to open a 35-11 lead.
No. 18 SYRACUSE 90, HOLY CROSS 46: Andrew White scored 19 and the host Orange went on a 14-0 run in the first half.
Football: Report says LSU likes Fisher
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has emerged as a strong candidate in LSU's search, according to a report from nola.com. Other candidates mentioned in the report are interim coach Ed Orgeron and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora.
The Tigers will probably go with an offensive coach to counteract the struggles on that side of the ball under Les Miles, who was fired in September. Fisher is regarded as one of the best offensive minds in the game. His name will likely continue surfacing for major jobs, including Texas if the Longhorns fire Charlie Strong.
Fisher is under contract with FSU on a $44 million deal through 2022.
On Tuesday, Fisher expressed his love for his current post.
"I'm not going to talk about any jobs," Fisher said. "I love being at Florida State. I love being here. That's the last thing I'm going to say. No offense to anybody or anything else. I love being here."
Michigan: Quarterback Wilton Speight (broken collarbone) remains questionable for Saturday's game against Indiana.
Times staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report, which used information from Times wires.