Tampa, FL -- In the No. 22 University of South Florida's first Top-25 matchup in the regular season at the Sun Dome, the No.1 UConn Huskies ended the Bulls undefeated home streak and perfect conference play record. Forward Morgan Tuck, who recorded a season-high 22 points, led UConn to a 75-59 victory, extending the Huskies' undefeated streak to 51 games.
"Was I pleased with our guys' effort? Yeah," USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. "We knew matchup wise it was going to be tough, especially the Morgan Tuck matchup. For us to be successful against them, you have to shoot a big number."
USF senior guard Courtney Williams put the first two points on the board for the Bulls, before freshman forward Kitija Laksa, who's still on fire from her career high 38 points performance on Thursday, hit back-to-back threes.
USF went 4-for-7 from the three-point range, allowing the Bulls to hang in with the defending national champions, who shot at a 35 percent efficiency from the field. The Huskies finished the first quarter on an 11-1 run, taking a 17-15 lead.
"I mean its Uconn," Williams said. "They're going to run. We just have to answer. We knew what we were coming into; we knew they were going to go on runs. We just had to answer, and we didn't do that."
During the second quarter, eleven points from Williams, and a locked down defense allowed USF to keep the game closely contested. The Bulls forced five turnovers, and held the Huskies scoreless in the final three minutes of the quarter. Tuck's 13 points and 5 rebounds gave the Huskies a 33-28 lead, while Williams led all scorers with 16 points and 8 rebounds to close out the first half.
"I don't think there's another player in this league harder to guard than Courtney Williams," UConn head coach Geno Auriemma said. "She plays at a whole other level when she plays against us."
Laksa opened the third quarter with back-to-back threes, putting the Bulls one point away from a tie ball game. A 7-0 run from UConn rejected that possibility, and forced USF head coach Jose Fernandez to call a timeout with his team down eight.
Williams reached her fifth double-double of the season with 18 points and 10 rebounds at the end of the quarter. Tuck, led all scorers with 19 points and the Huskies to a 53-44 lead heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
"Most of it [three-point shooting] is confidence. It's practice; then it's confidence," Laksa said. "This was definitely one of the best games we've had this season. We played hard, but we didn't play hard enough all 40 minutes."
UConn opened the fourth quarter with three consecutive three-pointers by three different Huskies, extending their lead to 62-44. The Bulls responded late in the quarter with three straight three-pointers themselves, with two coming from Williams, giving her four a total of four to tie her career-high.
UConn shot at a 75 percent efficiency from beyond the arc in fourth, going 6-for-8, and propelling the Huskies to a 75-59 win. Williams led all scorers with 26 points and 13 rebounds.
"It gets better every year," Auriemma said. "Every time we come down here, Jose has a better team. I thought the environment was great; the crowd was fabulous, and both teams played really well. It was a great basketball game."
The Bulls will travel to Tulane on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tipoff.
"We can't just dwell on this game," Williams said. "We have a lot more games to play."