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March 24, 2013

Bulls Defeat Texas Tech, Win First Tourney Game

The USF Bulls women's basketball team has finally gotten its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.

After a one-and-done appearance in 2006, the Bulls came into Lubbock ready to make a serious run in the tourney. After trailing by as many as eight points and having multiple players get into some foul trouble early on, the Bulls came out on top in this first-round matchup by the score of 71-70.

The Lady Raiders jumped out to an early 8-1 lead thanks to the play of junior guards Chynna Brown and Christine Hyde, the two offensive powerhouses on a team that tends to struggle with scoring. The Bulls would quickly claw their way back into the game with strong defensive play to pull within one at the half, and the game would follow a back-and-forth rhythm from that point on.

Inga Orekhova reaffirmed her position as the three-point specialist for USF during this contest. Orekhova was a perfect 3-for-3 from the three-point line in the first half of the game, and racked up two more in the second half when points were needed most. Perhaps her most critical three-point shot came when the Bulls were down 66-63 with just over a minute to go in the game; her basket would tie the game and lead the way to USF's 71-70 win.

Orekhova was sharp from the field as well as the foul line, and lead the team with 20 points. Andrea Smith, the team's leading scorer, struggled in this contest due to foul trouble. Scoring just four points during the game, well off the mark of her 17 points-per-game average, Smith was visibly frustrated by the calls and fouled out of the game with just seconds remaining.

Courtney Williams, the freshman guard who has been impressive off the bench throughout the entire season, continued to be productive for the Bulls in her first tournament appearance. Williams had the third-most points tonight with 12 and a team-high two steals, and will most likely see more time on the court in the second round.

The final score is somewhat misleading as to how close the game was in the final moments. USF led 71-67 with just five seconds remaining in the contest, but a last-second three point jumper by Texas Tech's Casey Morris brought to within one point. Though the entire second half would be a fight for the lead, in the final moments the Bulls had control over the game.

Though the discipline of the team in terms of committing fouls and turnovers will certainly need to be evaluated before the second round, Coach Jose Fernandez will most certainly be pleased with how his team shot tonight. USF shot 41.7 percent from the field (Texas Tech shot 34.4 percent), and shot an impressive 71.4 percent from the foul line to put points on the board when the clock wasn't running.

USF now advances to the second round of the tournament, and will take on the 2nd seed California Golden Bears (29-3, 17-1) Monday night at 9:30 p.m. ET. The Golden Bears have lost just one game in their last 15 contests, and they are considered by many to be favorite to win the region.



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