TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — South Florida couldn’t overcome a double-digit deficit against No. 8 Maryland.
Courtney Williams scored 21 points and Alisia Jenkins had 13 points and 11 rebounds in the Bulls’ 78-70 loss to Maryland in the season opener for both teams on Friday night.
South Florida, which got its first NCAA tournament win last season before losing in the second round, made several runs after falling behind 43-28 at the half.
“We’re down 15, that was just demoralizing,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. “But then in the second half, I told them we weren’t going to get it all back at once. Let’s just play four minutes at a time, and that’s what we did.”
South Florida guard Inga Orekhova, who averaged 12.7 points last season, finished with two points. She missed 11 shots, including six from 3-point range.
“I know Inga struggled,” Fernandez said. “She’s a very good basketball player. She’ll just have to bounce back.”
Laurin Mincy scored 15 points and Shatori Walker-Kimbrough added 12 for Maryland. Alyssa Thomas, a preseason Associated Press All-American who averaged 18.8 points and 10.3 rebounds last season to help the Terrapins reached the NCAA round of 16, was severely limited by foul trouble and had just four points and three rebounds in 10 minutes.
“Obviously, very excited to be able to come out of here with the win against a really good team,” Maryland coach Brenda Frese said. “When your All-American only plays 10 minutes, I definitely think we were able to show our depth.”
Maryland used a late 15-2 surge to take the 43-28 halftime lead. Thomas missed all three of her first-half shots and played five minutes after picking up two fouls early on.
Mincy had 13 points and freshman Lexie Brown chipped in 11 during the opening half for Maryland. Brown completed the late run by hitting a 3-pointer 2 seconds before intermission.
Thomas was called for her third foul during the opening minute of the second half. After returning to play, she got her first two points on a jumper with 9:20 left, but committed her fourth foul less than 30 seconds later.
South Florida pulled to 45-37 just 3 minutes into the second half when Tamara Taylor connected on a long-range jumper. She had 14 points overall.
Consecutive baskets by Tierney Pfirman put Maryland ahead 53-39 with 13 minutes to play.
Poor shooting slowed South Florida in its comeback bid. The Bulls made just 15 of 59 shots (25.4 percent) through the first 28 minutes of play.
South Florida got within six points on Jenkins’ layup, but Maryland grabbed a 64-55 lead during its next possession on a 3 by Walker-Kimbrough.
USF pulled to 72-68 when Orekhova made two free throws with 40.3 seconds remaining. Thomas responded by making a pair free throws 20 seconds later.
“It definitely gives us confidence,” Williams said. “Coach told us we could play with anybody, and we believe him. Tonight it showed.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)