For most of the Wednesday night matchup, the 12th ranked South Florida Bulls (12-1) trailed the Cincinnati Bearcats (4-14) due to early shooting struggles. But their three-point shooting late was the key, as USF drained 4 three-pointers in the second half to help them erase a 5- point deficit and push the game to overtime.
In overtime, USF used aggressive drives to the basket to get to the free-throw line. That strategy worked out for them; they cashed in on 9 of 12 free-throws in OT as they avoided an upset, winning 69-65.
The game was USF’s second game back after COVID protocols kept the program on hold for a month; they have now won back-to-back matchups since returning. The win keeps them on top of the American Athletic Conference, remaining perfect with a 9-0 conference record. Cincinnati now sits at 9th in the conference with a 1-7 record.
Sydni Harvey and Ilmar’I Thomas faceoff in a scoring battle
Coming into the game, the player to watch on either side was Ilmar’I Thomas. Averaging 22.2 points per game on the season, she is a legit contender for Player of the Year not just in her conference, but nationally.
With Cincinnati looking to upset the top team in the conference, Thomas delivered in a variety of ways. She finished with 23 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds as USF failed to come up with an answer for her. She shot 8-17 from the field and added 2 three-pointers as well.
Thomas was a force in the second half and OT, adding 14 of her 23 points after halftime. But her scoring was matched by opposing point guard Syndi Harvey. Harvey came into the game 3rd in PPG on her team, but her late three-point and free-throw shooting helped her team secure the win late. She also finished with 23 points, shooting 3-7 from three and 8-11 from the line.
Her play was critical to a USF team with early shooting struggles; at one point in the third quarter, the team was shooting 1-20 from the three-point line. But Harvey shot the Bulls out of it, cashing in 2 three-pointers in the fourth quarter. She dominated the OT period as well, adding 8 points to help secure the win.
Elisa Pinzan, the junior guard from Italy, made history as she cracked the USF top 10 for all-time assists. Her 9 assist-night gives her 319 on her career and helped her jump four spots to 9th in program history.