TAMPA — The USF women's basketball team is on the verge of cracking the nation's top ten. The 13th-ranked Bulls closed out a trip to the Bahamas that included a 71-62 win over #9 Oregon and a 57-54 win over reigning national champion Stanford.
"I think it definitely has improved our confidence," guard Sydni Harvey said before practice. "We know that we can compete with anybody in the country as long as we do what we’re supposed to do."
Bulls head coach Jose Fernandez isn't too worried about the rankings. He said he definitely thinks they belong among the best in the nation, but he also wants his team to keep putting in the work.
"Are we doing everything every single day to be a [top ten team]? That’s for me, as coaches, using that. It’s really good for recruiting. But we recruit differently anyway."
To say USF has an international flair to its roster would be a massive understatement. The bulls have ten players on the team who were born outside the U.S.
"Basketball’s the universal language," Fernandez said. He said most high-level international players know each other from tournament play, so there's no issue communicating once they get on the court.
"Sometimes it was just 'I don’t know how to say this!' And I would just say it in Italian," point guard Elisa Pinzan said with a smile. "And people like [teammate Cristina Bermejo] or somebody else would understand what I was saying. That was just so cool."
Pinzan leads the team in minutes per game (34.1) and assists (6 per game), so whether it's her native Italian or English, it seems to be working.
"Here, English is the first language. But I’m saying it in Italian an people are understanding me. So that’s what’s really, really cool."
The Bulls (5-2) only two losses were a 52-49 setback at Tennessee- a game USF probably should've won- and a 60-53 defeat at the hands of powerhouse Connecticut. The Bulls have proven they're a top ten-caliber team. They have to be consistent if they want to stay there.
"They gotta live up to it every day. In the weight room, in the film room, in the classroom," Fernandez said. "Coming in and investing and attacking each practice every day."
"I think we've just gotta take it day by day," Harvey added. "Take each team we play and prepare for them. We can't look ahead. We can't look back."
The Bulls travel to Texas for a match-up with UT-Arlington on Thursday night. Tipoff is set for 7 P.M.