Tampa, FL - The No. 19 University of South Florida Bulls defeated the Memphis Tigers 97-82 at the Sun Dome on Sunday afternoon. Five USF players were in double figures, and though senior guard Courtney Williams led the Bulls with 23 points and 9 rebounds, a collective, explosive effort from the team propelled the win.
"I thought that was a very entertaining game for the fans and for the people watching all over the country," USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. "We're a different team when we've got everyone healthy."
USF struggled to find a rhythm early in the first quarter, while Memphis was still hot after a historic five-overtime win against Temple on Thursday. The Tigers shot at a 57 percent efficiency, while the Bulls went 38 percent from the field.
Two free throws from sophomore forward Maria Jespersen gave the Bulls their first lead with two minutes left. USF sophomore forward Laura Ferreira returned to action for the first time in six games, leading the Bulls with 7 points. USF held a 21-20 advantage heading into the second quarter.
"I just wanted to help the team," Ferreira said. "I was trying to avoid the pain that I still have a little bit, and just do my best."
Three-point shooting allowed USF to stay on top in the second quarter. The Bulls connected from beyond the arc in three straight possessions, going 4-for-6, while the Tigers went 1-for-4 from the same range.
USF increased their field goal efficiency to 41 percent, and Ferreira continued to lead the Bulls with 13 points, followed by senior forward Alisia Jenkins with 10 points and 8 rebounds. USF held a 43-34 lead heading into the second half.
"Ferreira's performance speaks for itself but I think its all the other things that she does," Fernandez said. "The energy, the fire the leadership in the locker room."
USF's Kitija Laksa connected with the rim for the first time in the game with a quick three-pointer early in the third quarter. The freshman forward put up 10 points and the Bulls only two three-pointers of the quarter.
Jenkins, who logged 20 rebounds in her last game at the Sun Dome, recorded her first double-double since returning from an ankle injury against UCF on Jan. 5. Alongside Laksa, Williams added 10 points and led USF with 17 points and 6 rebounds. The Bulls took a 69-63 lead into the final 10 minutes of play.
"Memphis was 12-for-16 from the floor in the third quarter, 75 percent," Fernandez said. "For us to continue to sustain and have that lead, I think it was how well we rebounded and how we took control of the basketball."
Halfway through the fourth quarter, USF went on a 9-0 run in just over one minute, and took its largest lead of the game (13 points). The Bulls continued to lead throughout the quarter, and senior guard Shalethia Stringfield would become the fifth USF player - alongside Williams, Jenkins, Ferreira and Laksa - to put up double figures, recording 14 points.
Jenkins finished with 20 points and 17 rebounds, Ferreira with 19 points and 6 rebounds, and after going down with an apparent right ankle injury, Laksa finished with 13 points and 4 rebounds. Williams led the Bulls with 23 points and 9 rebounds, as USF defeated Memphis 97-82.
"I was pleased with how our kids responded in the fourth quarter," Fernandez said. "We want to control our own destiny, and we have the ability to do that."
The Bulls will travel to Tulsa on Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tipoff.