The University of South Florida women’s basketball team hit the road for the first of two, two-game road trips, that it will take this season, and it is extremely appropriate that the Bulls’ first stop on the trip comes in the city that is understandably pre-occupied with another big game this weekend ... Pittsburgh. Well, in its own world, USF’s game with the Panthers on Saturday afternoon was just as big, and as meaningful, as the AFC title game that will be played on the other side of town on Sunday night between the Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
The Bulls came into the game with Pitt with a 1-3 record in BIG EAST Conference play, and in need of a big win to get momentum back as they head to Rhode Island to take on Providence on Tuesday night. In addition, to make things even more interesting, the two schools have created a nice little rivalry since the “Green and Gold” joined the BIG EAST, with four of the five games previously played being decided by a total of nine points and in the last 10 seconds of the contest.
Well, another close finish was not in the cards today as the Panthers handed the Bulls its second straight loss with a 79-47 setback at the Petersen Events Center. The defeat drops USF’s record to 14-5 and 1-4 in league play. The Bulls came out and battled from the opening tip leading by two, 13-11, with 12:27 left in the first half on two of Porche Grant’s six first-half points. Pittsburgh, however, would hold USF without a field goal for almost the next seven minutes, until Shantia Grace hit a driving lay-up with 5:34 left before the intermission to make the score 24-17. The Bulls’ only points during that stretch – before Grace’s lay-up – were two free throws by the senior guard with 7:34 left on the clock before the break.
The Panthers would then round out the final five minutes on a 13-2 run and holding a 37-19 edge entering the locker room at halftime. The Bulls’ last field goal of the half came on a lay-up from Grant off an assist from Allyson Speed with 3:57 remaining. USF’s 19 points were the fewest scored in the first half this season and the second fewest in a half all year. USF shot 20.7 percent (6-29) from the field in the first stanza while Pittsburgh hit 35 percent of its shots (14-40).
The Panthers came out of the locker room much like the same way it went in. Pitt outscored the Bulls 20-11 in the first 10 minutes of the final half, while shooting 23.8 percent (5-21). During that 10 minute stretch, the Panthers used an 18-4 run from the 17:42 mark to the 10:01 mark of the second half. Pittsburgh would extend its lead to as many as 37 points (78-41) before the final buzzer.
Porche Grant led USF with 11 points and 11 rebounds, recording her fourth double-double of the year. The Bulls were again without a key player in Danielle Starzynski who is still serving a suspension due to personal discrepencies.