The third time was the charm for the USF women’s basketball team pulling the upset over No. 9 nationally ranked and the overall tournament top seed Wayne State, winning by a final score of 75-69 at the Sanford Pentagon on Saturday. With the win, the Cougars advance to the semifinals of the NSIC/Sanford Health tournament where they will face the winner of the Concordia-St. Paul/Minot State game on Monday at 6 p.m.
The win brings the Cougars to .500 on the season with 14 wins and 14 losses while Wayne State falls for only the fourth time this season claiming a record of 27-4.
The victory was the Cougars first this season over a ranked opponent as they had gone 0-5 against ranked teams coming into Saturday’s matchup, including an 0-2 mark against Wildcats.
Taylor Varsho and Laura Johnson teamed up to jumpstart the Cougars offense, combining to score 39 of the Cougars 75 points. Varsho led all scorers with 20 points while also dishing out five assists and grabbing four rebounds. For Johnson, it was her eighth double-double of the season as she scored 19 points and grabbed a game-high 14 boards while also dishing out four dimes and rejecting three shots.
After starting out the game making four of her first five shots, USF put the clamps on Wayne State’s Jordan Spencer as she went 2-of-10 over the last 33:25 of the game. Spencer ended the game with 17 points, but only saw limited action in the second half due to foul trouble.
Defense was the key for the Cougars in their upset bid holding the Wildcats to just 33.3% from the field which was their second lowest output of the season. Shots from behind the arc didn’t fare any better as Wayne State went 4-of-18 (0.222) from downtown.
The Cougars were middle of the road offensively shooting 43.1%, but also committing 23 turnovers. The three-point ball made the difference for USF late shooting 53.8% over the final 25 minutes of the game. USF’s three-point prowess came in a timely fashion by hitting several shots to swing the momentum in their favor, including a Bailey Bouman three-point shot with less than five seconds left that sent the game into overtime.
Despite the Cougars hanging close in the first half, Wayne State looked to carry the momentum into the locker room ending the half on a 5-0 run to give them a 33-26 lead after the first twenty minutes of action. Early in the second half, the Cougars looked like they didn’t quite have enough to completely erase the deficit, but a 10-0 run flipped the table on the Wildcats as USF took their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
Wayne State looked to storm back and send the Cougars home without the upset when they scored ten straight points of their own to take an eight point lead with just over four minutes left in the game. The Cougars then stormed back cutting the lead down to three points with 21 seconds left in the game.
This set the stage for senior Bailey Bouman who was 1-of-4 from the field coming into the final 20 seconds, but her three-point attempt rattled around on the rim and finally dropped with four seconds left to send the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, USF seemed to be in complete control leading for all but 20 seconds of the overtime period. The Cougars once again came up big from downtown hitting three of their four attempts from beyond the arc in the final five minutes.
Jordan Spencer looked to will her Wildcats to victory by pulling WSC within one-point with 40 seconds left but another timely Cougar three-point shot off the hands of Jaicee Ulmer put USF ahead for good.
The Cougars will now advance to the NSIC/Sanford Health Tournament Semifinals where they will play the winner of Concordia-St. Paul and Minot State. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m. on Monday, March 3 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls.
Courtesy: Paul Watley, University of Sioux Falls, Sports Information