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Women's hoops team starts season slowly

Back-to-back losses to Ball State and Florida Atlantic have exposed the Bulls' weaknesses.


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 8, 2000

TAMPA -- Two games epitomize the USF women's basketball team's fortunes this season.

Hosting the USF Classic on Dec. 2, the Bulls (1-4 entering Thursday's game against Jacksonville) came back from a 20-point deficit against Ball State only to lose 84-80. Three days later, leading Florida Atlantic by 12 in the second half, the Bulls fell 93-84.

"Those two games are two totally different situations," acting coach Jose Fernandez said. "But the jury is still out on us. We've been getting outrebounded and are not shooting well from the line. But I am pleased we aren't turning the ball over."

Down 70-50 in the second half against Ball State and facing being blown out in their own building, the Bulls put together a furious rally. In the last 10 minutes, USF outscored Ball State 21-4 to get to within four.

The comeback was for naught, however, as the Cardinals hit 7 of 10 free throws in the last 1:49 to seal the win.

Against the Owls on Tuesday, USF saw its six-point halftime lead stretch to 12. But a barrage of three-pointers quickly erased the Bulls' lead. After a 22-9 Owls run and a 2-of-10 free-throw performance down the stretch for USF, Florida Atlantic escaped with the nine-point home win.

Along with dropping its third in a row, the Bulls wasted a 32-point performance from Aiya Shephard and saw point guard Melissa Tape go down with a hyperextended elbow.

So what do Fernandez and the Bulls do to halt the slide before conference play begins next month?

Rebound and shoot better.

The Bulls have been outrebounded by an average of 14 in each game and are shooting 39 percent from the field and 28 percent from the free-throw line.

Not that all of the problems were controllable. With Tape going down in the FAU game, the Bulls were limited to a six-person rotation.

With their top point guard out, pushing the ball up the court became a problem, leading to the Owls' comeback.

"We were limited in what we could do," Fernandez said. "We were using six players and facing a rotation of 11 or 12. It's only a matter of time before something gives."

Fernandez said Tape will be evaluated during the week and might play in USF's 4 p.m. game Saturday against Indiana (7-1) in the Dodge Shootout at the Sun Dome.

After the Hoosiers, USF finishes the month with a road game at Miami on the 16th, followed by three home games: Western Kentucky (Dec. 18) Kansas State (Dec. 28) and Towson State (Dec. 30). One thing Fernandez can't fault is effort. Shepard has been outstanding, scoring her career high in the FAU game, leading the Bulls in scoring in all but one game and averaging 21 points a game.

Denetrice Stinson also is averaging double figures with 14 points a game while Shannon Layne, Lindsey Smith and Tape are playing key minutes.

"I am pleased with some things," Fernandez said. "The girls are working hard. There is no question with the amount of energy they are showing."

"We just have to focus on some things and get a little better."

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