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March 23, 2013

USF travels to Lubbock

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LUBBUCK, Texas -- The USF Bulls make their return to the women's NCAA Tournament this evening, taking on the Texas Tech Lady Raiders in the first day of tourney action. This is USF's second tournament appearance in the history of the program, both times having been under Coach Jose Fernandez.

USF (21-10, 9-7) enters the tournament as the 10th seed in the Spokane Region. The Bulls have had nearly a two week break since their last game, when the squad took on and eventually fell to Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. Still, USF comes into the match having won two of their past three games and confident in its abilities to go far in the tournament.

Texas Tech (21-10, 11-7) enters the tournament as the 7th seed in the Spokane Region. The Lady Raiders have had just as much time off as the Bulls but ended their season on a sour note, losing their final two regular season games before going one-and-done in the Big 12 Tournament.

However, Texas Tech enters the match with what would be a considerable advantage for any team - home court advantage. It is particularly advantageous for the Red Raiders, because in addition to having the Saturday night crowd behind them, they are also 14-3 in Lubbock this season.

Despite seemingly being perceived as underdogs in this contest, center Akila McDonald believes that her team is more than ready to take on the Lady Raiders.

"You can't go out there unconfident. That's an automatic loss," McDonald said after practice on Friday, "We're prepared for them. It's going to be a tough matchup, it's going to be an up-tempo game; ESPN is already talking about it being the best matchup. We're just ready."

McDonald, who is 69th in the country in blocked shots per game, will be a critical player in this contest. Though Texas Tech may not have the upper hand when it comes to its scoring offense, the team rarely makes mistakes with the ball; the Lady Raiders have the 15th best turnover margin in the country. McDonald will have to force her opponents to make mistakes to help the Bulls win this game.

Statistically speaking, USF should be the favorites in this contest. Beating out Texas Tech in categories such as scoring offense, three-point field goal percentage, and field goal and three point field goal defense, the Bulls are sound in most aspects of the game.

USF will need to focus on their defensive efforts on junior guards Casey Morris and Chynna Brown, as the former is sharp from the three-point line while the latter is successful from the perimeter. Should the Bulls keep those two in check, the Lady Raiders will have no answer for the offensive production put up from players such as Andrea and Andrell Smith.

Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET, and the game will be shown on ESPN2. This contest is ESPN's national game of the night, and it will be aired in its entirety for those in the Tampa Bay area.



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