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USF freshman Laksa still on FIRE, drops career-high 38

The USF Bulls again protected their home court tonight beating the SMU Mustangs. Another eye opening performance from freshman Kitija Laksa, as she continued to shoot the ball well behind the arc on her way to a new career high, 38 points

Sandy Czarnecki - Swish Appeal

Tampa, FL -- The No. 22 University of South Florida Bulls remain perfect at the Sun Dome and undefeated in American Athletic Conference play with an 83-56 win over the SMU Mustangs. Kitija Laksa led the Bulls with 38 points, a new career-high for the freshman forward.

"What I've really enjoyed seeing is our youth in the team," USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. "The youth on this team, for us to down the road keep this going, it's really good."

The first quarter was a defensive battle, where neither team scored in the first three minutes of play. USF held SMU to a 25 percent shooting efficiency in the first quarter, where the Mustangs went 5-for-20. Senior guard Shalethia Stringfield hit a three at the buzzer to give the Bulls an 18-12 lead.

"I thought we really challenged our guys," Fernandez said. "We told them we needed to get a little bit more from everybody. And I thought we did that."

Senior guard Courtney Williams, who uncharacteristically scored zero points in the first quarter, began the second by putting two to the board for the Bulls. Laksa, coming off a career-high 21 points against UCF on Tuesday, was on fire again from the three-point range, going 4-6 from beyond the arc, and leading all scorers 16 with points. USF's 45 percent shot efficiency, compared to SMU's 19 percent, allowed the Bulls to take a 44-17 lead into the locker room.

"My team trusted me," Laksa said. "They gave me the open looks; they found me. I just shot."

Though SMU statistically looked like the better team in the third quarter, shooting 62 percent from the three-point range, compared to USF's 33 percent, and outrebounding the Bulls 12-4, USF continued to lead, going into the last 10 minutes of play with a 58-38 advantage. Laksa continued to lead all scorers with a new career-high of 23 points.

"Kit definitely had a special night, that's what she does," Fernandez said. "I thought our kids really found her and got her open as well so it's a credit to them and us sharing the ball."

The Bulls dominated offensively in the fourth quarter, where Laksa turned in the best AAC three-point performance this season, hitting 8 on the night, and the second USF player, alongside Williams, to score 30+ points this season. The Bulls finished with a 47 percent efficiency from the field, going 11-24 from beyond the arc.

"Like here in America you say," Laksa said. "I just let it fly."

The Bulls will host defending national champion UConn on Sunday at 5 p.m.

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