Tampa, Fl - The University of South Florida women's basketball team overcame a cold start in the first half of its season opener against Jacksonville Friday night to pull away in the second half for a 82-77 win over the Dolphins.
The Bulls (1-0) shot just 32.7 percent (12-37) in the first stanza while Jacksonville (0-1) hit 40.6 percent (13-32) of its shots from the field en route to a 36-31 lead at the half.
USF, however, came out hot in the second stanza and took its first lead of the game, 40-38, when Kaneisha Saunders drove the length of the court for a layup with 17:39 left.
After both teams exchanged baskets for the next two-and-a-half minutes, Jacksonville would tie the game for the final time at 46-all when Jessica George hit a three-point shot with 14:57 left in the contest.
That would be as close as the Dolphins would get as the Bulls used a 21-6 run, starting with a jumper by Andrea Smith with 14:23 left on the clock and ending with Salla Ekstrom's first career basket with 7:23 left, giving USF a 15-point lead - it's biggest of the game - at 67-52.
Jacksonville would eventually put together its own 9-0 run to cut the lead to four with 47 seconds left, however the Dolphins would not get any closer as the Bulls hit four of their six free throws down the stretch to pull out the victory.
Andrea Smith, the 2010 National Junior College Player of the Year, led the way for the Bulls with 21 points and eight rebounds in 38 minutes of play.
Saunders would finish with 18 points and tied a career-high with seven assists, and Daleisha Carn added 16 points and five rebounds in the victory.
Akila McDonald chipped in with seven points and shared team-high rebounding honors with eight boards, with Smith, in her collegiate debut.
Crystal Bell led the way for Jacksonville with 21 points.
The Bulls will have a quick turnaround as they travel to Murfreesboro, Tenn. to face Middle Tennessee State on Sunday at 1 p.m. USF will then return home on Wednesday, Nov. 17 at 7 p.m. to butt heads with another in-state foe, Stetson.