TAMPA, Fla - Chelsea Lyles scored 20 points as the Eagles fell to the Bulls 88-81 overtime in the Women's National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) second round game at the Sun Dome.
The win, USF’s fifth in its last six outings, snapped the Eagles 17-game winning streak and ends their season at 26-5 overall. The victory also avenges a heartbreaking 67-65 loss, for the Bulls, to Florida Gulf Coast exactly one year ago in Fort Myers in the WNIT first round.
USF improves to 23-10 on the year marking the most wins in a season for a Bulls’ basketball team, men’s or women’s.
In a game that would eventually see 14 lead changes and seven ties by the time the final horn would sound, the Eagles jumped out in the first half and seemed to take control, despite never leading by more than four points in the first 9:32 of the first half, when Kelsey Jacobsen (Barnesville, Minn.) hit a three-pointer with 10:28 remaining in the first half.
Although Florida Gulf Coast dictated the tempo, the Bulls would eventually make a run to take a three-point lead, 36-33, on a driving lay-up by Wynne with 4:16 left in the first stanza.
The Eagles, however, would then put together their own run scoring the next 15 points to take a nine-point lead, 48-36, on a trey by Brittany Brown (Flint, Mich.) with 1:11 left in the half. That lead would prove to be Florida Gulf Coast’s largest margin of the contest.
After a free throw by Jasmine Wynne with 20 seconds left before the intermission, and a steal and one of two free throws by Jazmine Sepulveda with two seconds left, USF would trail by just eight points at the break, 48-40.
The second half would prove to be no different than the first, with the two teams going back and forth.
After Florida Gulf Coast pushed its lead back to 10 points, twice in the first 4:20 of the second half, the Bulls would put together an 11-2 run to cut the lead to one point, 60-59, on a three-pointer by Sepulveda with 13:38 left in regulation.
The Eagles would get the lead back to four points on their next possession on a three-pointer by Jacobsen to make the score 63-59.
After USF regained the lead and pushed its edge back to four points, on a lay-up by Jessica Lawson with 9:15 left in the second half making the score 67-63, neither team would lead by more than three points the rest of regulation.
In the final minute of regulation, Wynne would hit what seemed to be the biggest shot of her short collegiate career, driving the right side of the lane and hitting a lay-up with 15 seconds left on the clock to make the score 79-77. Unfortunately for the Bulls, Adrianne McNally (Brighton, Mich.) had other ideas as she drove the left side of the lane to score with two seconds on the clock to tie the game at 77-all. A Shantia Grace desperation shot was no good at the buzzer.
USF took control early in the overtime and defensively locked up the Eagles. The Bulls would hold Florida Gulf Coast to just two of the 11 combined points scored in the extra session en route to the win.
The victory is the third this season for the Bulls in overtime and improves their record in overtime games to 11-3 under Fernandez. In addition, USF has allowed just eight points in its three extra session games this season and just three in the last two.
Along with Wynne’s offensive output, the Bulls also got big nights from pits post players Jessica Lawson and Brittany Denson as they recorded 19 points and 15 rebounds, and 18 points and 12 rebounds respectively. Each player was just one rebound off tying their respective career highs.
Chelsea Lyles (Colorado Springs, Col.) paced four players in double figures for the Eagles with 20 points while McNally and Jacobson added 16 and 15 points respectively. Brown finished with 11 points.