Tampa, FL - The No. 20 University of South Florida Bulls defeated the Houston Cougars 73-49 at the Sun Dome, led by freshman forward Kitija Laksa and senior guard Courtney Williams.
"I'm very proud of my team," Laksa said. "We played well, shared the ball, and played unselfish. We're just getting and being more successful."
Laksa, named both the National and American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Week, put USF's first points on the board with a quick three-pointer. The Bulls didn't take any more shots from beyond the arc in the first quarter, but held the Cougars to a 25 percent efficiency from the same range. The Bulls went 6-for-6 in free throws, and didn't allow the Cougars any opportunities to get to the line. With five points, Laksa led the Bulls to a 13-12 advantage.
"I told our guys just attack, get to the rim," USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. "Be tough, go through those traps, and get through the pressure."
USF held Houston scoreless for the first seven minutes before sending the Cougars to the line for the first time. With a beautiful jumper, Williams became USF's second highest scorer in program history, totaling 1,953 career points. Laksa added three more three-pointers, leading all scorers with 18 points, and giving the Bulls a 40-21 lead to close out the first half.
"I thought the biggest thing for us was the second quarter," Fernandez said. "We took care of the ball, we were very unselfish, we shared it, we found people at the end of our break and that was good to see."
Williams recorded her eighth double-double of the season in the third quarter, reaching 16 points and 13 rebounds. The Bulls increased their shooting percentage to 50, while holding the Cougars to 27 percent. Laksa added six more points to her leading scoring, giving the Bulls 24 points, and a 57-31 lead going into the final 10 minutes of play.
"Courtney had a good night, she was 7-for-13, over 50 percent with 13 rebounds," Fernandez said. "I thought she played very unselfish. She really wanted to facilitate and find people on the break and get people involved."
In the fourth quarter, USF junior center Nancy Warioba reached a new career-high with eight points. The Bulls finished shooting 44 percent from both the field, and the perimeter, while holding the Cougars to a 30 percent field goal efficiency, and 24 percent from the three-point range. With three minutes left, both Laksa and Williams were checked out of the game, combining for a total of 40 points. Laksa led all scorers with 24 points, and Williams finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds.
"In the fourth quarter we played some lineups just to rest some of our top rotation guys," Fernandez said. "We got to play a lot of people tonight. Tomorrow we'll be off and start thinking about going on the road."
The Bulls will travel to SMU to face the Mustangs on Sunday at 2 p.m.