TAMPA — Before Sunday afternoon’s game, members of the No. 1-ranked and defending national champion Connecticut Huskies joined with University of South Florida women’s basketball players in a clinic for kids to promote the Tampa-bound 2015 Women’s Final Four.
It was followed by another clinic — UConn 63, USF 38 — before 6,615 Sun Dome fans.
The Bulls (13-11, 8-5 American Athletic Conference) actually limited UConn (26-0, 13-0) to its worst offensive performance of the season — and still lost by 25 points.
That’s because UConn’s defense was even more effective.
After UConn fell behind 3-2 on Inga Orekhova’s 3-pointer — a rarity because the Huskies had trailed for only 30 minutes, 11 seconds of 1,000 minutes played this season — it promptly went on a 14-0 run. And it was mostly a double-digit game after that.
“We took some bad contested shots that led to bad transition defense,’’ USF coach Jose Fernandez said. “We had good effort and energy, but to win a game like this, you’ve got to shoot a lot better than we did.
“Those runs come so quickly. There are only so many timeouts you can take and so many media (timeouts). You’ve got to stop it by answering with a basket.’’
The Bulls missed 14 consecutive field-goal attempts and found themselves down 16-3. On an afternoon when they shot just 26.3 percent from the field — and 19.4 percent in the first half — that essentially was the game-ender.
Orekhova was the only effective USF player (17 points on 6-for-13 shooting). Leading scorer Courtney Williams was 3-for-18 and Alisia Jenkins was 0-for-7.
“We’re able to do something that’s hard to do — recruit high school All-Americans who score 16 million points in high school and get them to play defense when they come to college,’’ UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. “South Florida is probably one of the hardest teams to defend because of how much stuff they run. I’m really, really happy with the defensive effort today because this is not an easy team to play defense against.’’
Fernandez returned to the sideline after five days in a hospital last week, prompted by an allergic reaction to prescribed medication for a recurrence of diverticulitis, an inflammation of the large intestine.
“I’m just tired,’’ Fernandez said. “It was tough being away from your team. It was definitely not the best way to lose 17, 18 pounds.’’