TAMPA — Not only did the University of South Florida women clinch their first regular-season conference title Tuesday night, but they did so in the friendly confines of the Yuengling Center and on senior night.
A 65-62 win over UCF had many anxious moments in the final minute. The No. 15 Bulls led by 11 with 34 seconds left only to have the Knights make it a one-point game with 1.6 seconds remaining. But they held on and a championship celebration ensued at midcourt.
“It’s really good to win it on your home floor and this team will go down in the history of USF athletics,” said coach Jose Fernandez. “I am happy for them because of how hard they worked and how much they sacrificed to get this.”
Elisa Pinzan, who led USF (15-2/13-1) with 18 points, hit a pair of free throws to account for the final margin. A three-point attempt by UCF’s Alisha Lewis (game-high 27 points) clanked off the front of the rim as time expired.
Elena Tsineke scored 10 of her 12 points in a first quarter in which the Bulls took an 18-5 lead. Fernandez’s team, which went 10-1 at home, led by as many as 22 in the second quarter and took a 34-17 lead at the half.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Knights and a loss Tuesday night would have meant a winner-take-all matchup at UCF (13-3/11-2) on Thursday night to conclude the regular season.
Following the game at UCF, the American Conference champs will travel to Fort Worth for the conference tournament, which gets underway next Monday.
“We still have a lot of basketball left and we need to practice,” said Fernandez. “After Thursday, we will have a chance to concentrate on us.”
Tom Layberger is also contributing writer for forbes.com. Read his feature on the unveiling of USF’s new athletic facilities.