Stetson led for much of the first half and only trailed by six points with five and a half minutes to go, but USF pulled away late for 70-48 victory Saturday afternoon at the Sun Dome.
Jama Sharp, Shanasa Sanders, and Cherisse Burris each scored 10 points for the Hatters (0-2), who were playing their second game in as many days to start the season. Stetson was without the services of senior Victoria McGowan for the first time in her two-plus seasons with the Hatters.
“I was obviously much happier with the first half,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said. “I think their pressure really got to us. I think having Simone Taylor in foul trouble hurt us, because she helps us break the press. We really couldn’t afford for her or Jama to be out of the game without Victoria.”
A tightly contested first half featured five ties and five lead changes, with the Bulls (1-0) taking a one-point lead into the intermission.
A three-point play by Burris and a three-pointer from Ashley Dennis gave Stetson an early second half lead at 38-37. But USF scored the next 11 points and never relinquished the lead after that run. The Bulls picked up 14 steals in the game and scored 22 points off of turnovers.
“I think they wore us down a bit in the second half. They just kept the heat on, which was the right thing to do, because we didn’t handle their press very well,” Bria said. “I felt like we didn’t have the crucial turnovers in the first half, the back court turnovers where they were getting easy lay-ups. That really hurt us.
“Against a team like USF, when they get up by double digits, it’s hard to come back, because their athleticism makes them hard to press. I thought that if we stayed with them, we would have a chance, but we had trouble scoring.”
The Hatters shot 26 percent for the game and hit just four field goals in the second half.
Stetson will play its home opener on Friday against Florida A&M. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. at the Edmunds Center. Free live video will be available on HatterVision.
Notes: Janelle Mills played her 99th career game … Victoria McGowan had played and started in 68 consecutive games since the start of her sophomore year ... Shanasa Sanders played her sixth career game against USF … Simone Taylor made her first start since 2011 and led the team with seven rebounds ... Amena Brent played eight minutes in her first collegiate game ... Sasha Sims recorded a block for the sixth straight game dating back to last year.