TAMPA — The University of South Florida women’s basketball team remains disappointed over the news of March 17, when the Bulls were not selected to the NCAA tournament.
But that snub also has provided motivation for USF (21-12), which has won two straight WNIT games and hosts the George Washington Colonials (23-10) tonight at the Sun Dome in the event’s Sweet 16 round.
“I think we have responded well,’’ USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “I knew they would going in. That’s the character of this team. They’re young. Of course, they’re upset.
“But there’s only 32 (women’s) teams still playing (in the NCAA and WNIT) and we’re one of them. We know what it’s like to win this event (2009) and it was an unbelievable experience. I’d love for this team to experience that.’’
The Bulls, who finished third in the American Athletic Conference, losing only to top-five teams Connecticut and Louisville since January began, have just two seniors, guard Inga Orekhova and center Akila McDonald, so even better days could be ahead. For now, though, even as a consolation, USF wants to keep winning.
“I think we have stayed positive, knowing that either tournament is good, regardless of which one it is,’’ USF sophomore guard Courtney Williams said. “We’re just grateful to still be playing. Some teams were not chosen for postseason play. We’d like to win something, just to prove a point.”
It wasn’t the ending visualized by Orekhova, who was the shooting star of last season’s NCAA tourney team, which took California, an eventual Final Four squad, to overtime in the second round, finishing excruciatingly close to the Sweet 16.
“Of course, we have the mindset that we’re going to win this tournament,’’ Orekhova said. “We have been playing like a team, sharing the ball, rebounding, scoring, playing defense.
“It was hard (not making the 64-team NCAA field) because once you’re in, you want to get back. But we just have to make the best of it and take it out on them (opponents).’’
Bulls sophomore forward Alisia Jenkins said she’s confident that NCAA tournament play will be in her future. For now, though, she wants the WNIT championship.
“We’re still doing the thing we love the most, which is playing basketball,’’ Jenkins said. “Even though it’s not the NCAA, it’s still a championship. We have to keep playing harder and with more confidence. We’re giving this everything we have, playing every game like it’s your last one.’’
Former QB Matt Floyd, a team captain who started last season’s opener against McNeese State, has transferred to South Alabama. Floyd was 9-for-20 with 72 yards and two interceptions in the opener. He was pulled after the second half’s initial series and never played again for the Bulls. … Michelle Collier, the best volleyball player in USF history and a member of the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame, was named head coach at Georgia Tech. She led Jacksonville to the NCAA tournament and was named Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year in 2013. At USF, Collier was a two-time Conference USA Player of the Year and an All-American. She is the only USF volleyball player to have her jersey retired. … Softball LHP Sara Nevins threw her fifth career no-hitter — and second this season — in last week’s 8-0 win against Connecticut. Nevins needs three victories to tie USF all-time leader Monica Triner with 92. … Lelo Prado’s baseball team was drubbed 9-0 at home by FIU on Tuesday. The Bulls (15-9), who have dropped five of their past nine, are at Cincinnati for a three-game AAC series that begins Friday night.