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February 13, 2013
TAMPA - The USF Bulls dropped a key Big East game against the St. John's Red Storm this afternoon, falling by the score of 65-59 at home and moving to 5-5 in conference play.
This match was particularly important for the Bulls' NCAA Tournament resume, as St. John's (12-10, 6-4) has a top-60 RPI ranking and will be competing with USF to stay on the tourney bubble throughout the rest of the season.
Head Coach Jose Fernandez was quick to praise the play of the Red Storm, noting that they "did a very good job defending us. They forced us to take jump shots rather than us getting to the rim. We were bothered by St. John's physicality and defense."
That same potent defense held the Bulls (16-7, 5-5), a top-25 scoring team that came into the match averaging 72.8 points per game, to their fourth-lowest scoring effort this season. St. John's also had nine steals and eight blocks en route to its 12th win of the season.
Immense pressure would result in USF having a difficult time making shots, shooting just 31 percent from the floor. Usual standouts Andrea Smith and Andrell Smith were held to single digits, scoring just eight and six points respectively.
St. John's guard Shenneika Smith had the kind of game that is expected from a team's leading scorer and shot blocker, scoring 19 points and blocking five shots. Though she only went 6-for-17 in field goals, Smith was clutch at the foul line and went 7-for-10 there.
The Bulls were able to keep up with a determined Red Storm squad on the back of freshman Alisia Jenkins, who had her third consecutive double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Associate Head Coach Jeff Osterman noticed this effort, saying that Jenkins "single-handedly kept us in this thing."
With only six games remaining this season, it is critical that the Bulls pick up as many wins as possible if they hope to be considered by the NCAA Tournament committee. With half the remaining matches being against Top 25 ranked teams, Coach Fernandez knows that the road will hardly get easier from here.
"You've got to turn around and get Seton Hall. It doesn't get any easier with Syracuse coming in here, going to Rutgers and Connecticut. You've got to pick yourself up and win the next one."
USF will face Seton Hall (8-15, 3-7) at the Sun Dome on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.