By Meghan Mitchell, Reporter
The No. 5 ranked Lady Bears basketball team survived a nail-biter at the Ferrell Center last night against No. 19 South Florida, 66-63, securing a spot in the Preseason WNIT Championship game on Sunday.
The Bears (3-0) looked to keep the momentum at home going, adding on to their home record, 99-2.
The Bulls (2-1) were coming off two wins and a impressive last season, finishing second behind Connecticut in the American Conference.
Head coach Kim Mulkey said she was proud of the way her team played against the tough Bull’s team.
“Just beat a team that has five returning starters and nine returning players,” Mulkey said. “That was a very hard fought win for us, but I knew it was going to be.”
The Bears dominated in the paint in the first quarter, taking a commanding 23-14 lead at the end of the quarter.
“I thought we were tremendous on the defensive end,” Mulkey said.
Careless turnovers in the second quarter hindered the Lady Bears from capitalizing on their lead,
With 43.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter the Bears committed a careless foul behind the three point allowing the Bulls to close the gap.
Followed by a careless turnover, the quarter ended with the Bears up 6 (34-28).
Coming back from the half, the Bears continuously pushed the ball down the court, taking some of the momentum back.
The Bulls never let down. Fighting their way back in the third, they tried to find a spark, but the Bears defense was too strong.
Going into the fourth, the Lady Bears kept moving the ball up the court.
Freshman post Kalani Brown who only saw 10 minutes of play.
Although her time on the court was relavtively low, Brown’s contribution came up big for the Lady Bears. She scored 11 points and claimed five rebounds.
“I tried to do what I could,” Brown said.
Mulkey said senior guard Niya Johnson did a great job guarding Williams, but it was fatigue that allowed Williams to score 19 in the second half.
“She’s just everything you dream of as a coach to have the floor for you,” Mulkey said. “She’s tired, but she never lets fatigue be an excuse; I sure am glad I have her.”
Junior forward Nina Davis was vital for the Lady Bears’ success Thursday night. She made plays when it mattered most.
Leading the Bears with 40 minutes on the court, Davis scored 15 points andgrabbed six rebounds.
“[Doug Bruno] will bring a team in here that can flat out play and he can flat out coach,” Mulkey said. “He always has good shooter, he always executes, he always has players that will overachieve.”
The Bears play DePaul 2 p.m. Sunday at the Ferrell Center.
“When you have good ones, you have to get out here.”