Sunday, April 5, 2009

Bulls Capture First WNIT Title with 75-71 Win Over Kansas

Jazmine Sepulveda scored 18 points and Shantia Grace had 16, leading South Florida to a 75-71 victory over Kansas on Saturday in the WNIT finals, giving the school its first postseason championship of any kind.

Jessica Lawson added 13 points for South Florida, including a key free throw in the final minute as the Bulls (27-10) held off a late Kansas run and won their third game in three different states in six days. South Florida had to win three straight road games to win the tourney. Danielle Starzynski was absent in game play due to a heart injury but was there in presence cheering her team on.

Danielle McCray had 24 points for Kansas (22-14) and pushed her tournament total to 147, a WNIT record.

The game attracted 16,113 fans, the largest home crowd for a women's game in Big 12 history. The Jayhawks averaged only 2,555 at home in the regular season.

The record crowd got a quick-paced, hard-fought game. In one furious possession in the first half, the Jayhawks missed four straight shots from point-blank range but each time got the offensive rebound. Finally, McCray got a put-back.

Sade Morris had 19 points for Kansas, which won nine of its last 11 to reach the school's first national championship game in women's basketball. Aishah Sutherland had 12 and Kyrsten Boogaard 10.

Janae Stokes, as the time clock was about to expire, drilled a long 3-pointer with 5:27 to go that gave the Bulls what looked like a safe lead at 65-53.

But then in a game of alternating streaks, the Jayhawks unfurled a 13-2 run, seeming to gather energy from their record crowd, and shaved the lead to 67-66 on a bucket by Boogaard.

But Lawson banked home a shot and then added a free throw to make it 70-66.

The Jayhawks had the ball with about 1 minute left needing a 3-pointer to tie, but Sutherland threw it away and the Bulls inbounded with 51 seconds to go.

Grace, South Florida's All-Big East point guard, dribbled around the Kansas defense and fed Sepulveda, whose 10-footer from the baseline put the Bulls on top 72-67 with less than 30 seconds to play.

After Sade Morris' free throw brought Kansas to 72-68, Lawson was immediately fouled and the 6-foot-3 senior hit one. Grace added two more free throws before McCray canned a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Sepulveda and Porche Grant led the Bulls on a 14-2 run closing out the first half and took a 38-30 lead into intermission.

Celebrate With The Champs
All USF fans are encouraged to meet the WNIT Champion USF Women's Basketball Team upon their arrival at Tampa International Airport.

The team will be arriving on Southwest Airlines Flight 2714 at 10:20 am Sunday.

Please note that parking is free for the first hour, but if you can’t make it to TIA, fan are welcome to meet the team as they arrive back on USF’s campus and the Sun Dome.

Postgame Quotes
USF President Judy Genshaft
"USF women's basketball has made history! The women's team and its coaches, especially Jose Fernandez, deserve all of our congratulations! They showed the nation they are a championship team. We are so proud of you all."

USF Head Coach Jose Fernandez
Opening Statement:
“First of all, I want to comment on what a great basketball atmosphere this was. I’ve been at South Florida for nine years, and we’ve played at a lot of places, but this atmosphere was totally tremendous. Coming into an arena like this, that is so rich with history, was special, especially for our seniors. They finished their careers in Allen Fieldhouse, and that is something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives. I think it was a great championship game. I want to recognize Kansas’ efforts and what a great job Bonnie (Henrickson) has done and what they did to get here. I couldn’t be prouder of our kids, coming into this environment and winning on the road.”

On the solid defense on KU’s Danielle McCray:
“We had (Jazmine) Sepulveda on her a lot. We were in a no-catch situation with her. Anytime that they interchanged on the baseline, we switches on those screens. What we did with (Janae) Stokes and Shantia (Grace) was to go double her off of the catch and into the dribble just to get the ball out of her hands. I think she’s an unbelievable future. She’s going to be a pro. She’s got 3-point range and a great body. She can get to the rim. We were really concerned with her, even more so for the numbers that she’s put in during the last 10 games of the season.

Senior Guard Shantia Grace
On the game:
“I just had to sit-back and take care of the ball and let the game come to me. I had a couple bad shots at the beginning of the game, so I just had to settle down. In the second half, I was the go-to player so I had to suck it up and play hard. I had to get my team going.”

On the crowd:
“At first, it was loud. It was so loud that my ears were ringing and I couldn’t hear myself breathe. It was loud. But after you play for a couple minutes, you just tune the crowd out and play your game. We’ve been playing well on the road all year, in the Big East and in the WNIT. We knew that the crowd wouldn’t be a factor if we just stayed together and played hard.”

Freshman Guard Jasmine Wynne
On the crowd:
“We had to stay together. The crowd can’t score, so we decided that we had to stay together as a team.”

Sophomore guard Danielle Starzynski
On Not Playing in the Championship game:
"It was rough having to sit back and just watch everything happen, especially in a championship game and such a huge environment with a big crowd. I wanted to be out on that court so bad helping my team and really playing a part in this game because this is history right here. But i just had to sit back and cheer my team on though and it still feels good i'm still really proud of my them i knew we'd pull this win off and i'm proud to say atleast i came here and walked away with a title. This also throws a slap in people's faces that thought we shouldn't have made the ncaa tournament because obviously we're contenders. I'm just excited right now it feels great."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bulls Moves Into WNIT Title Game With 82-65 Win At BC

The University of South Florida women’s basketball team looked to take another step in an already successful Women’s National Invitation Tournament journey tonight as it faced Boston College in the tournament’s semifinals. Well that journey will have another leg to it as USF handed the Eagles an 82-65 loss at the Silvio O. Conte Forum. The win was the fourth straight for the Bulls, and their eighth victory in their past nine games. USF is now 26-10 on the year while Boston College ends the season 23-12.

The Bulls now advance to the WNIT championship game and will face Kansas on Saturday, April 4 at 2 p.m. (ET).

USF came out in the first half and tried to set the tempo early as Jasmine Wynne forced the Eagles into turnovers on their first two possessions and helping the Bulls jump out to a 5-0 lead just two minutes into the game on a lay-up by Jazmine Sepulveda. After a Wynne lay-up made the score 13-11 USF with 10-:27 left, Boston College would score the next four points to take its first lead of the game, 15-13, with 9:23 left in the first half on a lay-up by Jasmine Gill.

The Eagles would push the lead to as many as six points twice over the remainder of the half, allowing the Bulls to regain the lead just once, 26-25, on their first and only three-pointer of the half by Shantia Grace with 3:03 left before the intermission.Boston College would eventually take a four-point, 32-28, advantage into the locker room at the break.

Despite USF shooting just 35.5 percent from the field in the first stanza, Brittany Denson was 4-6 from the field, and 4-4 from the charity stripe, for 12 points in the first 20 minutes. The Bulls came out in the first four minutes of the second half and scored 14 of the first 21 points during that stretch spearheaded by three Janae Stokes treys. USF took control of the game holding the Eagles without a field goal from the 12:10 mark to 6:28. During that stretch, the Bulls got 13 of 15 points from Wynne and two three-pointers from Stokes giving USF a 15-point, 65-50 lead.

USF would not look back the rest of the way as Boston College never got closer than 11 points in the final six minutes. The Bulls would extend their lead to a game-high 17 points, 82-65, with the final margin. Stokes would finish with a team-high 22 points on 7-16 shooting from the field, 5-9 from behind the arc, and 3-6 from the charity stripe. Wynne added 19 points while Grace and Denson chipped in with 16 and 12 respectively. Leading scorer Danielle Starzynski was absent from the game again due to a heart condition that has kept her benched. She is not expected to play in Saturday's WNIT final.

On the night, USF was 44.4 percent (28-63) from the field and 42.9 percent (9-21) from behind the arc. In addition, the Bulls hit 81 percent (17-21) of their shots from the free throw line in the win. USF also forced Boston College into 15 turnovers which led to 25 points, while just committing five on the night including two in the second half.

The Bulls will now head to Lawrence, Kansas for their first WNIT title game at the Phog Allen Fieldhouse Saturday with tip-off slated for 2p.m.. As always keep reading for updates and GO BULLS!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

USF Advances to WNIT Final Four With 80-66 Win

The University of South Florida women’s basketball team hit the road for the first time during its participation in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, traveling to the “Southern Tier” of the Empire State, looking to continue its record breaking season against St. Bonaventure in the WNIT quarterfinals. And while playing at a school that has tremendous basketball tradition and legendary basketball alums like Bob Lanier, it seems fitting that USF looks to continue building on its young but growing history.

Well, the Bulls will get at least one more chance to add another chapter to their storybook postseason as they handed the Bonnies an 80-66 loss and advance to the semifinals of the WNIT. The “Green and Gold” got the win in front of a raucous 4,133 fans at the Reilly Center, a school record for women’s basketball. USF now awaits the winner of Georgetown and Boston College who play at 5 p.m. on Sunday in Boston.

St. Bonaventure ends the season 23-11 while the Bulls improve to 25-10.

The Bulls got huge afternoons from its seniors as four of the five players in double-figures were in the senior class. Shantia Grace led the way with 20 points while Jazmine Sepulveda and Jessica Lawson added 14 points, and Janae Stokes and Brittany Denson chipped in with 11 and 10 points respectively. Leading scorer Danielle Starzynski, arguably the player that got the bulls to this point, did not make the trip due to health reasons. It has not been determined whether or not she will play the rest of the season.

Grace shot 3-10 from the field and 1-4 from behind the three-point arc, however the guard from Sarasota was automatic down the stretch from the charity stripe hitting 13-13 from the line including 8-8 in the second half. Her perfect performance from the line equals the second best in school history for a single game, joining Sonya Swick’s 13-13 against UAB on Jan. 16, 1998.

Lawson added 14 rebounds in the win for her second double-double in the past three games.

After St. Bonaventure led by as many as eight points in the first half and USF had a nine-point advantage in the first stanza, Stokes gave the Bulls a three-point lead, 38-35, at the intermission draining a 25-foot three-pointer at the buzzer.

In the second half, the Bonnies would regain the lead, 44-42, on a Katelyn Murray three-point shot with 17:42 left in the game. St. Bonaventure would get the lead to as many as three points, 51-48, hitting the front end of a one-and-one with 13:36 left in the contest, a lead that would prove to be the biggest for the Bonnies the rest of the way.

The Bulls would take control running their advantage to double figures for the first time in the contest, 73-63, on a free throw by Jasmine Wynne with 2:38 left in the game. St. Bonaventure would never get closer the rest of the way. On the afternoon, USF would shoot 50 percent (28-56) from the field and 85.7 percent (18-21) from the free throw line.

The Bulls will now face Boston College on Weds. April 1, at 7 p.m. at the Conte Forum in Chestnut Hills, Mass. in the semifinals of the WNIT tournament. Stay tuned for your updates and GO BULLS!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Bulls Pick Up Big Win In WNIT Third Round

The University of South Florida women’s basketball team picked up a big win Thursday night with a convincing 74-57 win over Southeastern Conference foe Mississippi in the Sun Dome in the third round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). Ole Miss finishes the season 18-15 while the Bulls improve to 24-10 on the year.

USF now advances to the quarterfinals of the WNIT where it will face St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y. on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Bonnies defeated Wisconsin in Madison on Thursday night, 56-51. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Bulls and St. Bonaventure.

The Rebels came out and took control early when Elizabeth Robinson one of her three three-point shots with 14:47 left in the first half to give Ole Miss a 14-4 lead, a margin that would prove to be its biggest of the game for Mississippi.

USF, however came back using a 10-2 run capped by a Danielle Starzynski three-point play with 11:12 left in the half, cutting the Mississippi lead to two points, 16-14. The Bulls would then take their first lead of the game, 26-24, on a lay-up by Shantia Grace – off a Starzynsi assist – and then pushed the margin to four points, 28-24, on another lay-up by Grant with 6:47 left before the intermission.

After the Bulls took a nine-point advantage, 35-26, with 5:02 left in the half on a three-pointer by Starzynski, Ole Miss would counter by closing the half on a 14-5 run and took a 40-38 lead into the locker room at the break.

USF, however, came out in the second half and didn’t waste any time in taking the upper hand outscoring the Rebels 16-4 to open the second stanza and taking a 54-44 lead on a three-pointer by Janae Stokes with 15:06 left in the game.

Ole Miss would cut the lead to five points two times in the next two minutes, however would not get any closer the rest of the way. The Bulls largest lead of the game came on a 10-foot jumper by Shantia Grace with 21 seconds left giving USF its final margin.

Grace would finish the game with 18 points while Janae Stokes netted 13 and Starzynski contributed 27 in the win. Starzynski would be taken out of the game with 6 minutes left to play due to heart complications that led her to collapse on the floor. She was taken to a nearby hospital where she was admitted. Jessica Lawson and Porche Grant each added 10 points apiece while Grant also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. Grant's double-double was her third of the season and the sixth of her career.

The Bulls continue to improve on their record-setting win total. Their 24 victories are the most ever recorded by a USF men’s or women’s basketball team.

Monday, March 23, 2009

USF Gets Big Wynne In Coming Out Party

University of South Florida freshman guard Jasmine Wynne picked one heck of a night to have a coming out party. The Jacksonville native turned in a career outing pouring in a game-high 26 points in the Bulls 88-81 overtime win over Florida Gulf Coast in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) second round game at the Sun Dome.

The win, USF’s fifth in its last six outings, snapped the Eagles 17-game winning streak and ends their season at 26-5 overall. The victory also avenges a heartbreaking 67-65 loss, for the Bulls, to Florida Gulf Coast exactly one year ago in Fort Myers in the WNIT first round.

USF improves to 23-10 on the year marking the most wins in a season for a Bulls’ basketball team, men’s or women’s.

In a game that would eventually see 14 lead changes and seven ties by the time the final horn would sound, the Eagles jumped out in the first half and seemed to take control, despite never leading by more than four points in the first 9:32 of the first half, when Kelsey Jacobsen hit a three-pointer with 10:28 remaining in the first half.

Although Florida Gulf Coast dictated the tempo, the Bulls would eventually make a run to take a three-point lead, 36-33, on a driving lay-up by Wynne with 4:16 left in the first stanza.

The Eagles, however, would then put together their own run scoring the next 15 points to take a nine-point lead, 48-36, on a trey by Brittany Brown with 1:11 left in the half. That lead would prove to be Florida Gulf Coast’s largest margin of the contest.

After a free throw by Wynne with 20 seconds left before the intermission, and a steal and one of two free throws by Jazmine Sepulveda with two seconds left, USF would trail by just eight points at the break, 48-40.

The second half would prove to be no different than the first, with the two teams going back and forth.

After Florida Gulf Coast pushed its lead back to 10 points, twice in the first 4:20 of the second half, the Bulls would put together an 11-2 run to cut the lead to one point, 60-59, on a three-pointer by Sepulveda with 13:38 left in regulation.

The Eagles would get the lead back to four points on their next possession on a three-pointer by Jacobsen to make the score 63-59.

After USF regained the lead and pushed its edge back to four points, on a lay-up by Jessica Lawson with 9:15 left in the second half making the score 67-63, neither team would lead by more than three points the rest of regulation.

In the final minute of regulation, Wynne would hit what seemed to be the biggest shot of her short collegiate career, driving the right side of the lane and hitting a lay-up with 15 seconds left on the clock to make the score 79-77. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Adrianne McNally had other ideas as she drove the left side of the lane to score with two seconds on the clock to tie the game at 77-all. A Grace desperation shot was no good at the buzzer.

Like USF has done during its history under head coach Jose Fernandez, it took control early in the overtime and defensively locked up the opposition. The Bulls would hold Florida Gulf Coast to just two of the 11 combined points scored in the extra session en route to the win.

The victory is the third this season for the Bulls in overtime and improves their record in overtime games to 11-3 under Fernandez. In addition, USF has allowed just eight points in its three extra session games this season and just three in the last two.

Along with Wynne’s offensive output, the Bulls also got big nights from pits post players Lawson and Denson as they recorded 19 points and 15 rebounds, and 18 points and 12 rebounds respectively. Each player was just one rebound off tying their respective career highs. The girls picked a good night to stepup offensively as they were without leading scorer Danielle Starzynski who was absent due to a heart surgery she was undergoing. No word on when Starzynski will return.

Chelsea Lyles paced four players in double figures for the Eagles with 20 points while McNally and Jacobson added 16 and 15 points respectively. Brown finished with 11 points.

USF has been assured a third round WNIT home game against Mississippi on Thursday, March 26, at 7p.m.. Stay tuned as always for your updates and GO BULLS!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

USF Advances to Sixth Straight Postseason; Earn Bye in WNIT

The University of South Florida women’s basketball team will take part in its sixth straight postseason event and it’s fifth Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT). USF, who receives a first round bye to this year’s tournament, will await the winner of the George Washington vs. Florida Gulf Coast game which will be played on Thursday, March 19 in Fort Myers, Fla. The Bulls will host their second game on Saturday, March 21 at 7 p.m.

The Bulls advance to the WNIT after posting a 22-10 record and an eighth place 8-8 record in BIG EAST Conference play. USF’s 22 wins marks the most wins in the program’s 37 year history. The Bulls have won four of their last five games, six of their last nine and eight of their last 13 games with three of those eight wins coming at Rutgers, at DePaul and at Villanova, all NCAA Tournament team’s.

First team All-BIG EAST Conference selections Shantia Grace and Danielle Starzynski are two of four players averaging double figures in the scoring column netting 39 and 16.2 points per game respectively, while Janae Stokes (12.7 ppg.) and Jazmine Sepulveda (12.2 ppg.) are the remaining two. Starzynski's playing status is day to day right now due to a nearly fatal car accident she was involved in on Sunday. No report on her injuries sustained although it was reported that she did participate in practice on Monday.

The Bulls earned the No. 8 seed, and a first round bye, in the BIG EAST Tournament where they defeated Cincinnati, 68-58, in the second round before losing to top seeded, and No. 1/1 ranked, Connecticut in the quarterfinals.

George Washington comes into the WNIT with a 17-13 record and finished fifth in the Atlantic-10 Conference with a 9-5 record. The Colonials have dropped their last three games; however have won 10 of their last 15.

Florida Gulf Coast comes into its game with the Colonials with a 25-4 record and winners of the Atlantic Sun Conference regular season championship with a 17-3 record. The Eagles, who were not eligible for the A-Sun Conference Tournament due to it being in its Division I transition phase for reclassification, have won 16 straight games entering the WNIT.

Bubble burst: No NCAAs for USF Women

Despite being projected by experts as making the cut for the NCAA Tournament, the Bulls were passed over when the field of 64 was announced Monday night, with only seven Big East teams chosen.

USF (22-10) is left for the consolation of the Women's NIT, the Bulls' fifth appearance there in the past six seasons. USF coach Jose Fernandez had set 22 wins as the magic number for his team, which closed the season strong with road wins against Rutgers, DePaul and Villanova.

"At the end of the day, I feel for this bunch," Fernandez said. "You start four seniors, and a lot of these guys have been left out of the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years. ... This year, we broke a school record for wins, won 22 games, didn't have one bad loss. We beat Iowa and Texas Tech on the road, beat DePaul, Rutgers, Villanova all on the road. Five top-50 wins, (nine) top-100 wins, and we're sitting at home. ... There's got to be some kind of accountability."

USF has earned a first-round bye in the 48-team NIT, and the Bulls on Saturday will host the winner of Thursday's opening-round game between George Washington and Florida Gulf Coast. FGCU beat USF in Fort Myers in the first round of last year's NIT.

Three of's four NCAA analysts cited USF as being the tournament's "Biggest Snub" in reviewing the bracket Monday night.

Committee chair Jacki Silar, speaking on a teleconference Monday night, cited USF's nonconference strength of schedule, which she said ranked 264th nationally, as a factor the committee took into consideration in not choosing the Bulls. USF played just three top-100 teams in nonconference play.

Senior guard Shantia Grace, the only remaining member of USF's 2006 NCAA team, said the news was "heartbreaking" for a team that believed it had done enough to earn an at-large berth. Sophomore guard and leading scorer Danielle Starzynski did not appreciate the news either stating, "This is rediculous we got screwed over hardbody. I don't even have any words for this decision right now."

Among the teams chosen over USF were Virginia Commonwealth, which did not beat a team rated in the top 50 all season, its best win against a James Madison team rated No. 57 in the country. Georgia and Minnesota won despite worse records and lower RPIs while playing in lower-rated conferences.

Fernandez knew something was wrong when the top half of the Berkeley bracket was announced without a Big East team -- he knew that if his team was the eighth Big East team, the eight teams would be split evenly, one in each half of each region, so when a region came up with no Big East team, he said his team was out, with 24 spots still left to be announced.