FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Elisa Pinzan made six free throws in the final 23 seconds and 20th-ranked South Florida went 8 for 8 from the line in the last minute to hold off fourth-seeded Tulane in the semifinals of the American Athletic Association tournament on Wednesday.
Maria Alvarez had three of her four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the last with 1:50 to play that put the Bulls on top 43-41.
Tulane made 1 of 2 free throws with 1:27 to go, the foul sidelining USF’s Bethy Mununga, who had eighth points and 18 rebounds.
But Sydni Harvey was fouled and her two free throws at 53.4 pushed the USF lead to three. Following a Green Wave miss, Pinzan took over to keep the lead at two possessions.
Pinzan, Alvarez and Harvey all had 12 points for South Florida (17-3), which faces the winner of Houston-UCF in the championship game on Thursday. The Bulls’ record matches the 2016-17 team for the best 20-game mark in school history.
AAC freshman of the year JerKaila Jordan scored 22 points, her ninth 20-plus game, to lead the Green Wave (17-8), which has lost 18 straight to the Bulls. Krystal Freeman added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
USF shot 21.9% (7 of 32) with 12 turnovers to trailed 23-17 at the half and was down 10 points until a Harvey 3 and a Mununga jumper cut the deficit to 33-28 after three quarters.
FORT WORTH, Texas – For the second time as a league member, No. 2 seed UCF clinched a spot in the championship game thanks to a 61-39 decision over No. 3 seed Houston in semifinal number two of the 2021 Air Force Reserve American Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Championship on Wednesday evening at Dickies Arena. The Knights, receiving votes in both major national polls, will collide with in-state rival and top seed USF on Thursday at 9 p.m. (CT) in the American title game on ESPNU.
Diamond Battles paced a balanced UCF (16-3) attack with 14 points and three steals in the win. Masseny Kaba chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds, and Alisha Lewis scored 10 points and dished out three assists for the Knights. Laila Blair led all Houston (16-7) players with 11 points.
UCF embarked on an early 8-2 surge to take a lead by that margin into the first media timeout. Four different Knights were part of the initial scoring wave in the first five minutes. The run extended to 11-0 on a Battles 3-pointer (11-2). Blair broke the scoreless string for Houston at over five minutes to get the Cougars back on the board at 11-4. Houston scored the final points of the first quarter on a Britney Onyeje layup to close within six points at 14-8.
A Kaba jumper and Brittney Smith dribble drive for two extended the UCF lead to 18-8 and forced a Houston timeout less than two minutes into the second quarter. The UCF edge swelled to 14 (22-8) before an Onyeje layup broke the Knights momentum. A Kaba tip in off a missed layup and then turnaround layup of her own pushed UCF to its largest lead of the half at 27-10. Asia Todd ended the half with an emphatic 3-pointer as the shot clock ticked down to send UCF into the locker room ahead 36-15.
Todd connected on another big 3-pointer early in the third that upped the UCF margin to 45-21. A Brittney Smith layup down low and one made free throw by Houston’s Blair at the other end set the Knights lead at 47-22 at the media timeout. Houston held UCF scoreless for over six minutes in the third quarter but were unable to whittle down the gap past 47-28 in favor of the Knights at the end of the frame.
UCF finally broke back through on the scoreboard at the start of the fourth quarter with Battles driving home for two points and Courtajia Sanders struck with two layups to make the score 54-28 in favor of the Knights.
All of the latest tournament information can be found at Championship Central throughout the week by visiting TheAmerican.org/wbb.