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USF Bulls

USF Women Will Embrace Challenge

Staff
Published:   |   Updated: June 1, 2013 at 09:10 PM

In the Northeast, there is a team churning out victories and working on a perfect season.

It has dominated opponents and is closing in on making history by winning it all.

Sorry, New England Patriots fans, we're talking about the juggernaut at the University of Connecticut.

And the University of South Florida women's basketball team gets an up close look tonight when the Bulls (11-8, 1-5 Big East) visit the No. 1 Huskies (19-0, 6-0).

"Everybody's beatable," USF junior guard Shantia Grace said. "Everyone puts their jerseys on the same way, ties their shoes the same way. They're beatable, but everyone has to come and play and be focused."

Only one of the Huskies' victories has been by less than 10 points, and their average winning margin is 36 points. This just in: the Huskies don't put their jerseys on the same way as everyone else.

"Being the underdog builds up your momentum and makes you want to play harder," Grace said. "I like playing the tougher teams, especially UConn. It's a bit of a challenge.

"We have to play one of our best games. They have All-Americans at every position. We have great players, but we're not All-Americans. For us to win, we have to come together and play hard."

Besides facing the nation's No. 1 team, the Bulls will be playing in front of their largest crowd. UConn is averaging more than 12,500 fans at the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.

"We joked around and said because they have a lot of fans, we can't hear ourselves breathe out there," Grace said.

In December 2004, the Bulls almost pulled off the upset at UConn. USF forced the Huskies into overtime before losing 75-65. Senior forward ChiChi Okpaleke is USF's only remaining player from that team.

"We took a team up there three years ago that really believed, overachieved, worked hard and lost in overtime," USF coach Jose Fernandez said.

"Right now it bothers me how we're playing, it's upsetting. We're beating ourselves. Against Marquette on Saturday we had 24 turnovers and shot 28 percent. The thing is, we're 1-5 in the Big East right now. The big thing is our players have to believe they have a shot."

USF junior guard Jazmine Sepulveda is excited for the opportunity.

"We have to go and play hard with confidence," Sepulveda said. "This will be my first time to play UConn. It should be a good one.

"Any team can beat any team on any given day, it's just who comes to play. We have to play a perfect game and limit our mistakes."


Reporter Brett McMurphy can be reached at (813) 259-7928 or bmcmurphy@tampatrib.com.

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