TAMPA – Head coach Jose Fernandez knew the Bulls were ready to bust out after three great practices during the holiday break and his team showed it in Saturday’s 100-75 victory over Florida A&M at the Sun Dome.
Andrea Smith poured in 29 points and Andrell Smith added 26 points to help USF (10-2) bounce back from a 91-74 loss to Creighton on Dec. 22 in Cancun. The Bulls put the game away early in the second half with a 15-0 run that had them ahead, 62-40, within the first seven minutes of the period before Fernandez earned his 199th career win at USF.
“You have to put (the loss) behind you,” Fernandez said. “The last three days we’ve had three very good practices coming back from the break refreshed.”
The Smith twins each scored at least 20 points for the second straight game and combined to go 50 percent from the field against FAMU (3-9). Andrea Smith posted a team-high nine rebounds while Andrell Smith had seven rebounds, seven steals and six assists in USF’s highest scoring game of the season.
“It’s a credit to them. They live in the Muma Center and in the Sun Dome,” Fernandez said. “They’re fun to coach because they work so hard.”
The latest installment of the in-state rivalry started off fast with the Bulls jumping out to a 12-8 lead within the first six minutes of play with the teams combining for 24 field goal attempts. Andrell Smith was up to five points at that point and heated back up at a crucial time for the Bulls later in the first half.
Kimberly Sparkman’s fourth 3-pointer gave FAMU a 23-20 lead before Smith fired back with five straight points, including a layup off a steal that sent her to the line to get into double figures. Five straight points from Inga Orekhova put USF ahead, 42-29, but the Rattlers avoided a huge deficit by answering with a 7-0 run. Sparkman added her fifth 3-pointer during the scoring surge and went into the break with 15 points.
Andrell Smith snuck in a layup six seconds before the buzzer to give USF a 44-36 lead at halftime. Smith had 14 points at the break and was in double figures for the 10th consecutive time while Andrea Smith had 11 points and seven rebounds. The Smith twins have been in double figures in the same game eight times this season.
“We had to get this win, get some confidence and some momentum on this break that we have here,” Andrea Smith said.
USF turned a modest advantage into a large lead early in the second half with the 15-0 run. Instead of slowing the game down, the Bulls kept the heat on and used an 11-0 run to go ahead, 75-43, with less than 10 minutes to play.
USF wound up forcing 23 turnovers and scored 28 points off FAMU mistakes while improving to 6-1 at the Sun Dome.
“We just wanted to run, get some steals, easy buckets and just stay together. I think we did all that and I think it showed at the end of the game,” Andrea Smith said.
Courtney Williams was the third Bull in double figures with 12 points and Orekhova posted a career-high six assists to help get Fernandez close to a memorable milestone. USF’s 13th-year head coach goes for No. 200 Monday when the Bulls host Detroit Mercy at 2 p.m.
“To be in a position to win 200 games at a school with the amount of turnover there is in college basketball today, it’s special,” Fernandez said. “(Hopefully) we can get it done here in 2012 and worry about the Big East conference in 2013.”
– Inga Orekhova’s six assists set a career high for the junior. Her court vision has improved steadily in her time at USF, and is paying big dividends for the Bulls. Orekhova’s 40 assists this year is second-most on the team.
– Andrell Smith continues to do it all, collecting seven steals, seven rebounds, six assists and 26 points. Andrell leads the team in all four categories this season.