Tampa, FL -- The No. 22 University of South Florida Bulls improve to 13-1 at home with a 77-65 win over the Tulane Green Wave. Senior forward Alisia Jenkins returned from an ankle injury in style with 8 points and 20 rebounds.
"It feels great to be back on the court with my girls," Jenkins said. "I really missed playing, I missed rebounding, I missed talking to the girls on the court. I missed it all."
Jenkins was back in the Bulls' starting lineup for the first time since Jan. 5 when she injured her ankle against the University of Central Florida. The senior forward grabbed 6 rebounds in the first quarter, helping USF outrebound Tulane 13-2. Though the Bulls committed six turnovers, they didn't allow the Green Wave to get to the free-throw line at all in the first 10 minutes, and held a 21-14 lead.
"It was great to have Alisia Jenkins back," USF head coach Jose Fernandez said. "We're a different team with her on the floor. For her to give us as many minutes as she did tonight, and for her to rebound as well as she did, that's an added plus."
Senior guard Courtney Williams uncharacteristically scored 0 points in the first quarter, putting up her first field goal 3 minutes into the second quarter. USF hit 4 three-pointers, with two coming from freshman forward Kitija Laksa. The Bulls didn't allow the Green Wave to connect at all from beyond the arc, and continued to keep Tulane away from the charity stripe. Jenkins entered the locker room with 12 rebounds, one more than the Green Wave grabbed in the first half (11). The Bulls held a 40-30 lead.
"They (Tulane) did such a good job on Courtney," Fernandez said. "They went no-catch on her every time she came off and on ball screen, the doubled her. They mixed up their zones, and for us we have to get a better calmness to it."
During the third quarter, USF shot at a 43 percent efficiency from the field and 40 percent from beyond the arc, while holding Tulane to 37 percent from the floor and 25 percent from the three-point range. Three more rebounds from Jenkins and an 11-2 run from the Bulls helped USF head into the final 10 minutes of play with a 57-43 advantage. Laksa led the Bulls with 14 points, followed by Jenkins with 9.
"I think she (Jenkins) did a good job of finding other people on ball reversals and getting other people involved, that was a big thing," Fernandez said. "We found Kit in good spots. We found people on good ball reversals."
Williams showed up for USF in the fourth quarter, putting up 9 points, and leading the Bulls with 18 on the night. With two minutes left, USF committed its first shooting foul, where Tulane went 2-for-2. The Bulls finished shooting 45 percent from the floor, and 47 from the three-point range. Jenkins recorded 8 points and 20 rebounds, one rebound away from tying her career-high of 21.
"With the rebounding it started coming to me, I started feeling myself again," Jenkins said. "I started getting emotion and feeling the old self-coming back."
The Bulls will travel to Cincinnati on Friday for a 7 pm tipoff.