American Athletic Conference Semifinal: South Florida uses second half run to defeat Temple 64-46

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – South Florida seniors Courtney WIlliams, Alisia Jenkins and Shaleth Stringfield will get one more chance at top-ranked UConn. The Bulls used a 35-20 second half to blow open a close game and defeat Temple 64-46 to advance to the American Athletic Conference final tomorrow evening.

Held to two points in the first half by the Owls, Williams exploded for 20 second half points on 8-for-12 shooting to lead USF to the victory. Jenkins contributed 12 points and 15 rebounds.

It was Stringfield, the conference sixth player of the year, that kept the Bulls close in the first half. Inserted in the starting lineup tonight, she secored 12 points in the first half on her way to 20 for the game. A guard, she also pulled down 13 rebounds.

After South Florida opened an early six-point advantage, Temple erased the deficit, led by Connecticut native Tanaya Atkinson, who scored 12 points in the first half (17 for the game). At the half, South Florida led by three, 29-26.

Temple struggled with their shooting, hitting only 29.5 percent for the game, 25 percent in the second half. South Florida controlled the boards 47-35. Atkinson was the only Owl in double figures. Erica Coville did have nine points and nine rebounds.

In the end, it was too much of WIlliams, Jenkins and Stringfield for Temple to handle. The trio scored 14 of South Florida’s 16 third quarter points, and 17 of the Bulls’ 19 fourth quarter points to blow the game open.

“We knew what we were going to get. We knew it was going to be a good basketball game and get Temple’s best punch,” said USF coach Jose Fernandez. “Right now they are playing to get into the NCAA Tournament and I feel they are an NCAA?worthy team.”

Williams is looking forward to that third match up with UConn.

“Our mindset is they are beatable,” she said. “We beat them in the first half and we let up in the third. They made shots, which they are going to do that, so we have to answer.”

After the game, Temple coach Tonya Cardoza made her team’s case for inclusion in the NCAA tournament.

“I think our body of work speaks for itself,” she began. “We have grown over the course of the season and we actually have an identity. We have a defensive identity and as you can see in the first half we did a great job. You have players on the other side that are great scorers. Outside of Florida State and UConn, we were in every single game. Obviously we are young and let some games get away but we have learned a lot, and it would be disappointing if they didn’t invite us. We can make noise in the NCAA Tournament.”

The American Athletic Conference championship game between South Florida and Connecticut will be tomorrow at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN 2.

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