The USF Bulls pulled off yet another upset this afternoon, beating No. 21 Syracuse 68-66 on a last minute go-ahead shot from Akila McDonald.
It was a back-and-forth affair throughout the first half, with USF and Syracuse exchanging leads many times before the Orange began to pull away. Syracuse went on an 11 point run courtesy of Carmen Tyson-Thomas with just over two minutes to go, and went into halftime with a 37-26 lead.
Carmen Tyson-Thomas, a junior guard for the Orange, came off the bench to be Syracuse's top performer during the contest. In addition to the nine points she contributed to the Orange's last-minute run in the first half, she had 17 points and 6 rebounds on the game. The Bulls held Syracuse's leading scorer Kayla Alexander, who averages over 17 points per game, to just 11 points in this contest.
Playing from behind in the second half meant that the Bulls would need to be extremely productive on offense, and Andrea Smith and Andrell Smith were just that for their squad. The sisters, who had 18 and 16 points respectively, played all but 11 minutes of the game between them and each hit four from the three-point line.
It was junior center Akila McDonald that would put the exclamation point on the Bulls' second win over a Top 25 ranked opponent. After recovering from an 11 point deficit, USF was tied with Syracuse with just 41 seconds left on the clock. After a Bulls timeout, McDonald drove to the basket for a layup to take the final lead and win the game for her squad.
After back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, many are speculating that this accomplishment could earn USF women's basketball its first Top 25 ranking in school history. These wins will also be helpful in padding USF's NCAA Tournament resume, which is looking stronger after every match.
"We needed a signature game at home. We've lost some close games at home," said Head Coach Jose Fernandez after the game, "You know, you're 8-5 in the league. I told our guys, 'We're in control of ourselves'. We're not worried about who's winning, who's losing, the RPI, the strength of schedule. If we do what we need to do, we're a tournament team."
USF will now travel to Rutgers to take on a Scarlet Knights squad that has lost four straight games. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, February 26th.