By Tyler McConnell
TAMPA, Fla. (Jan 8, 2019)- An injury plagued University of South Florida women’s basketball team could not overcome their 22 turnovers in a 62-49 loss to the University of Central Florida in the War On I-4 at the Yuengling Center on Tuesday night. The Knights, who came into Tampa with a program best 12-2 start, took advantage of USF mistakes with 29 points off turnovers. The loss was USF’s first loss to their rival since February 14, 2017. The Bulls’ 14-game home winning-streak, which dated back to last season, was also snapped. The game was a battle from the start, with The Bulls missing leading scorer Laura Ferreira. USF would enter Tuesday night with just nine healthy players on its roster.
The Bulls opened the game with some early momentum, building a 7-3 lead early in the first quarter. The Knights, paced by junior guard Kay Kay Wright, would close the first quarter with an 18-15 lead. Wright finished the night with 20 points, which led all scorers in the game. The Bulls would battle back with a 13-point second quarter to make it a one-point game at halftime. Freshman Sydni Harvey kept USF in it with 10 points in the first half. She would finish the night with 12 points. The second half saw the Knights outscore the Bulls 33-21, with 45 percent shooting in the third and 44 percent in the fourth. USF closed the gap to just two with less than five minutes remaining, but UCF finished the night on a 12-1 run to end the home team’s hopes of a comeback. USF head coach Jose Fernandez pointed to unforced turnovers as the biggest problem of the night.
“I think the biggest stat of the night was our unforced turnovers and points off turnovers,” Fernandez said. “It was 29 to 10.”
Fernandez felt that USF made plays in transition and did a good job on the glass but noted that the team wore out by the end of the night. The Bulls were able to win the rebound battle 42-36, but their 22 turnovers made it difficult to take advantage of opportunities.
“We got a lot of good looks but if you shoot 28 percent from the floor you’re not going to beat many people,” Fernandez said. “We got the ball where we wanted to get it to but we had a hard time converting.”
One player who did convert her opportunities for USF was Enna Pehadzic. The sophomore guard recorded her second career double-double with a team high 16 points and 10 boards. She hit four field goals and four three-pointers. She was proud of how the team battled through the adversity of having three of its best players out.
“I’m proud of the team and how we kept fighting and fighting and fighting,” Pehadzic said. “Offensively we sometimes we didn’t knock down shots but I’m proud of the way we defended and stuck together.”
The win pushes UCF to 13-2 overall and 2-0 in American Athletic Conference play. They continue to build momentum after winning their most games in non-conference play since 1985-86. The loss drops USF to 10-6 and 1-1 in AAC play, their first .500 start in league play since the 2013-14 season.
The USF Bulls (10-6) will travel to Storrs, Connecticut to take on the third-ranked University of Connecticut on January 13.
The UCF Knights (13-2) will return home to face the University of Cincinnati on January 13