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NCAAW Preview: No. 14 South Florida hoping to return with dominance

The No. 14 South Florida Bulls had won six-straight AAC games by double-digits prior to their month-long layoff. Now they hope to get back to their dominant ways against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane. And maybe if some Power 5 teams ahead of them stumble, they can continue to move up the national rankings.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 08 AAC Women’s Tournament - South Florida v UConn
Bethy Mununga is a key piece of the puzzle for South Florida.
Photo by M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This has been a special season for the No. 14 South Florida Bulls (10-1, 7-0 AAC) and the magic all started on Dec. 5 when they defeated the then-No. 6 Mississippi State Bulldogs 67-63 in overtime.

The Bulls, who haven’t played in exactly a month due to postponements and cancellations, have been ranked as high as No. 13 — their highest placement in the AP poll in program history, with the previous high before this season being No. 15 in 2016.

Now, the Bulls will try to make an end-of-the-year push and hope to improve their ranking as much as possible before the conference tournaments begin. They have eight games remaining, starting with a 4 p.m. ET contest against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane on Saturday.

Tulsa (5-8, 4-8 AAC) has played six contests since Jan. 13, including a loss to the Tulane Green Wave on Wednesday. The Golden Hurricane fell to the Bulls 63-35 on Dec. 30 in Tulsa.

Elisa Pinzan led USF with 13 points and four assists in that game, while teammate Bethy Mununga added 11 points and hauled in seven rebounds.

Mununga and Pinzan are fourth and fifth on the Bulls in scoring, respectively, but are by far the team’s best rebounder and distributor, respectively. Mununga averages 11.5 boards per game, while Pinzan averages 7.2 assists. Elena Tsineke (12 points per game), Sdyni Harvey (10.5) and Maria Alvarez (10.2) are the team’s top three scorers with Mununga and Pinzana contributing 10.1 and 9.5 to the scoring column per game, respectively.

Tulsa’s Maya Mayberry is the high scorer for either side with 14 points per game, but the Golden Hurricane have just three players who score more than six per contest. M. Mayberry’s sister, Wyvette Mayberry (10.9 points and 3.5 assists), and Rebecca Lescay (8.7 points and 5.1 rebounds) are the other two.

W. Mayberry, a freshman, had nine points, five rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block in the first meeting between the teams — Tulsa’s best stat line that night.

Despite their losing record, the Golden Hurricane boast a season-opening win over the Oklahoma State Cowgirls, who are currently third in the Big 12.

Game Information

Tulsa Golden Hurricane (5-8, 4-8 AAC) vs. No. 14 South Florida Bulls (10-1, 7-0 AAC)

When: Saturday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. ET

Where: Yuengling Center in Tampa, FL

How to watch/listen: ESPN+/93.5 The Jet or Radio: Bulls Unlimited

Key to the matchup: Turnovers. South Florida has advantages across the board except that it sends players to the free throw line slightly more than Tulsa and has a comfortably worse turnover margin. The Bulls only commit 0.1 more turnovers than the Golden Hurricane (13.3 per game to 13.2), but force 3.8 less (14.7 to 18.5). The Bulls need to be aggressive on defense, while the Golden Hurricane need to take care of the ball to take advantage of the one edge that they have. South Florida has a better offense and defense and is far better on the boards (11.5 rebounding margin to -9.5).

Reason to watch: South Florida went from receiving votes when the season started to No. 13 on Jan. 25 with a mostly steady rise along the way. Check out if this AAC team could be a real threat come tournament time.