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No Bull: USF has plans for March

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Article from Conn paper which was posted on UCONN message board and discussed there.

No Bull: USF has plans for March

Posted: Saturday, January 9, 2016 12:11 am

By Carl Adamec Journal Inquirer | 0 comments


HOUSTON — The words were like music to Geno Auriemma’s ears.

At American Athletic Conference media day in October, the University of Connecticut women’s basketball coach heard about the talk from league rival South Florida that the Bulls believed they were ready to contend for the NCAA Final Four and national championship.

Was it bulletin board material for when UConn and USF faced off? The first of two regular season meetings between the top two teams in the league is Sunday at the Sun Dome in Tampa (5 p.m., ESPN2, WTIC-AM1080). Not to Auriemma. To the Hall of Fame coach, a strong USF only makes his team and the AAC stronger.

“If you think you’re good enough, you should say it,” Auriemma said. “The fact that they think they’re good enough and the fact that they’re saying it gives them something to live up to. All that is good. Teams that are like, ‘Let’s it take one game at a time,’ or, ‘A lot of things have to go right for us’ ... That’s like hoping no one puts any pressure on you. The best kind of pressure is what you put on yourself.

“If somebody said to me, ‘Would you be shocked if South Florida is in the Final Four?’ No. I’ve seen them play enough the last couple of years. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit.”

Top-ranked UConn and No. 22 USF are already the only unbeatens left in league play. The Huskies (13-0 overall, 3-0 AAC) won their 50th straight game by defeating Houston Friday night. The Bulls (10-3, 3-0) rolled past SMU 83-56 in Tampa Thursday night.

“Obviously, they’re at the top of our game and the one that we’re all chasing,” USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “I hope that we’re closing the gap. We brought everybody back this season. We brought experience back and we added some very good pieces.

“We like the expectations. We don’t run from them. Our players know what it is going to take to achieve their goals. They know we have to work and if we put in that work, we can go a long way.”

The Bulls have never reached the NCAA Sweet 16. They lost a second-round game to Louisville at the Sun Dome a season ago.

They returned their starting lineup intact including two of the AAC’s best — senior guard Courtney Williams and senior forward Alisia Jenkins.

“Coach said we’re going to be good and we’re going to prove it,” Williams said. “I’ve always been that type of player and I think we always play with a chip on our shoulder because we want to go further than any other year. That’s what we’re doing.

“We want to win a national championship. Going to the Final Four and beating Connecticut, those other things, they come with winning a national championship. That’s definitely the goal.”

UConn leads the series with USF 17-0, including three wins a season ago that included a 92-50 rout at Gampel Pavilion. The Bulls outscored the Huskies in the second half of the regular season finale and the AAC Tournament championship game, but were down by 24 and 23 respectively at the break.

USF is 9-0 at the Sun Dome this season, but is 0-2 against ranked teams, a three-point loss at Baylor Nov. 19 and a 10-point neutral court loss to Mississippi State on Dec. 30. They were also beaten at St. John’s on Nov. 29.

Williams was the league’s leading scorer a year ago and entered Friday’s action 0.1 points behind UConn’s Breanna Stewart at 21.2 points per game. Jenkins is averaging a double-double of 12.8 points and a league-leading 13.3 rebounds. The top addition is freshman sharpshooter Kitja Laska, who poured in 38 points against SMU on Thursday.

While Williams is a volume shooter (she’s making 41 percent of her attempts), her athleticism makes her explosive and a difficult matchup. She won a gold medal representing the United States at the World University Games last summer.

“What I learned there was I have to impact the game in other ways and not just by scoring,” Williams said. “I don’t want to be just a scorer. I want to handle the ball, I want to get my team in the right offensive set, I want to rebound, I want to be able to lock down the other team’s best player on the floor. I want to expand my game so I can impact the game in many ways.”

UConn is scheduled to fly to Tampa today after finishing up its work in Houston for Game 3 of four games in eight games. Sunday’s winner will hold sole possession of first place in the league, though the Huskies and Bulls have a rematch in Storrs on Feb. 29. They’ll also be the favorites to meet for the AAC Tournament title at Mohegan Sun Arena on March 7.

How about a fourth meeting deep into the NCAA Tournament? USF believes it has what it takes to get there.

“We know we have something to prove,” Williams said. “We have high expectations and we have to be up to that challenge.”


UCONN WBB thread:



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Another article:

Laksa Mania: #22 USF Women 83, SMU 56. #1 UConn on Sunday 5pm
Collin Sherwin - Jan 7, 8:22 PM

Kitija Laksa set a USF women's basketball freshmen record with 38 points in a 83-58 blowout of SMU on Thursday at the Sun Dome.
The newcomer from Riga, Latvia was 15-24 shooting, including 8-12 from three-point range. Her 38 is the second-most points scored in the American Conference this season, and the most by a freshman. Her eight threes is also a conference record for the season.
"They trusted me, they gave me open looks," Laksa said of her teammates after the game. "Like here in America you say, 'I just let it fly.'"
"I just tell her shoot the ball. We brought her in here to do that Just have fun, just enjoy yourself," Bulls head coach Jose Fernandez said of Laksa.
"We challenged our guys, we needed to get a little bit more from everybody," said Fernandez. USF's all-time leading rebounder Alisia Jenkins sat out with an ankle injury, and is listed as questionable for Sunday vs. UConn.

"What I like is we got two very special players in Courtney & Alisia. Those guys are seniors, they're going to get drafted, they're going to make money playing basketball."
When you have a freshman that had a night that she had, the youth on this team.... it's going to get better."
The Bulls (10-3, 3-0 AAC) outrebounded the Mustangs (6-8, 1-2 AAC) 50-43, and held SMU to 27.3% from the floor.
USF's biggest test and crowd of the 2015-16 season is Sunday at 5 p.m. against #1 UConn at the Sun Dome. Both Jenkins (ankle) and junior center Katelyn Weber (toe) are listed as questionable. USF will need their post presence vs. three-time National Player of The Year Breanna Stewart.
"They're really big, they have a really good transition," said Bulls sophomore forward Laura Ferreira. "It's mainly defense, we just gotta have fun. We have to stop Breanna Stewart."
The UConn game is also 90's Night, with the first 1000 fans in attendance receiving USF replica jerseys, and a special Spotify playlist being released by USF Athletics tomorrow
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Hate the loss and the lack of shooting consistency down the stretch, says we have a way to go before we'd be ready to make a run. Courtney did as well as she could do, but without Jenkins' rebounds and inside toughness we were going to be hard-pressed to take down a giant. I'm hopeful they'll be able to tighten up down the closing stretch and get Alisia back healthy. Good effort though, we still pulled the lead down to one point for a minute, says we can do it IMO.

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