Tampa, FL -- The No. 24 University of South Florida Bulls, led by senior guard Courtney Williams, defeated the Penn State Lady Lions 101-79.
The Lady Lions held the Bulls scoreless for the first three minutes before Williams put USF's first points on the board for the fifth straight home game this season. She closed the first quarter with 14 points and a highlight reverse layup, giving the Bulls their first quarter lead since their Nov. 13 season opener.
"I think just keeping the energy up, and my teammates getting involved, hypes me up," Williams said. "I just try and do my part."
Penn State became aggressive on defense in the second quarter, switching from zone to man coverage. However, USF continued to control the court, dominating the first half with a 49 percent shooting efficiency from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc. The Bulls went into the locker room up 53-35 during halftime, collecting their largest first half lead this season.
"I knew we were going to be good offensively," USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. "My concern's not the offensive side of the floor. We got to defend better."
The Lady Lions switched back to a zone defense, going on a 10-0 run halfway through the third quarter, and cutting their deficit to single digits until the ninth minute. USF freshman forward Kitija Laksa, who had a career-high 18 points on the day, hit a corner three, getting the Bulls lead back to double digits and giving USF a 73-62 advantage going into the final 10 minutes of play.
"When Penn State came out of the locker room they were inspired," Fernandez said. "Their zone slowed us down a little bit in the third quarter, and we didn't defend with the energy and enthusiasm we had in the first half."
Having four players in foul trouble during the fourth quarter didn't help Penn State in trying to overcome USF's explosive offense. The Bulls closed out the game strong, with Williams leading all scorers with 30 points, and USF finishing with a 55 percent shot efficiency.
"A lot to build on," Fernandez said. "Now we go into finals week. We'll be off tomorrow, and start getting ready for Chattanooga."
The Bulls will host Chattanooga on Sunday at noon.