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!

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