The season is finally here for Coach Fernandez and the USF ladies as they look to build on their WNIT run from last season (were 19-16 (8-8) overall). Their first challenge comes against in-state foe Stetson.
The Hatters were 22-11 (12-6) last season, which included a loss to the Bulls here in Tampa 62 to 77. In the win for USF, Akila McDonald had 14 points, four rebounds, and five blocks, Kaneisha Saunders had 19 points and six assists, and Andrell Smith had 10 points to round out the Bulls victory. The Hatters, who played tonight, are looking to upset the Bulls in their home opener.
The Hatters return their four leading scorers from last season, led by senior guard Victoria McGowan (5'4") who averaged 16.6 points per game last season, including 6.6 rebounds per game and 4.7 assists per game (led the team). In the game against the Bulls last season, she scored 11 points and had three assists, but turned the ball over seven times. Junior forward Sasha Sims (6') averaged 11.9 points per game, 6.9 rebounds per game and led the team with 45 blocks. Last year she had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the loss to the Bulls, but proved to be a challenge down in the paint. Senior guard Shanasa Sanders (5'7") averaged 11.8 points per game and 5.2 rebounds last season, scoring 24 points in the loss to the Bulls. With Sanders and McGowan in the backcourt, they can create a lot of headaches and will challenge the Bulls on the perimeter and off the dribble. Rounding out the Hatters squad is sophomore forward Cherisse Buris (5'10") who averaged 9.1 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game last season, but scored just one point in Tampa last season.
For the Bulls, the key to the game will be to slow down McGowan and Sanders. If those two get going, it could be a long night for the Bulls. On the other end, the Bulls have the shooters (Orekhova and Smith) and the size in the paint (Rowe and McDonald) to crash the boards and dictate the pace. This should be a fun opening game for the ladies.