AUSTIN, Texas — Elena Tsineke scored 18 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:32 remaining, to help South Florida to a 57-53 win over Washington State in the first round of the women’s NCAA Tournament on Sunday night.
Tsineke’s driving shot, which came soon after a 3-pointer by Washington State’s Charlisse Leger-Walker, gave the eighth-seeded Bulls (19-3) a 54-53 lead.
“The season is about to end,” Tsineke said. “You have to get something out of it.”
The ninth-seeded Cougars (12-12) had several chances to overtake South Florida, but Leger-Walker missed two driving shots and was called for traveling, all during the final 1:07. The Bulls hit free throws down the stretch to seal the win.
“They just made a couple more game winning plays at the end,” Washington State coach Kamie Ethridge said. “We didn’t quite make enough shots tonight to get ourselves a win.”
Leger-Walker, an all-Pac-12 selection and the league’s freshman of the year, matched Tsineke’s 18 points but converted only 4 of 18 field goal attempts, including 2 of 10 3-pointers.
Johanna Teder supported Leger-Walker with 16 points.
South Florida converted 11 of 16 shots in the second quarter – including its first six – to take a 38-29 halftime lead. The Bulls needed that boost because they hit 5 of 21 shots in the first quarter.
Tsineke finished the half with 12 points. Leger-Walker scored 11 in the half but was less efficient than Tsineke.
Leger-Walker, well guarded by South Florida, hit 2 of 8 shots but made all six of her free throws.
Washington State pulled even by the end of the third quarter, not by shooting well but by limiting South Florida to three baskets and seven points.
“You’re up nine and we knew they weren’t going to go away,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. “That team right there has had some really good wins in Pac-12 play. They’ve been in wars.”
South Florida extended a season that included a long delay. The Bulls earned their NCAA invitation by winning the American Athletic Conference tournament for the first time in the school’s history. The Bulls were on pause for the coronavirus for a month spanning January and early February.
BEEN A WHILE
Washington State didn’t last long in the tournament after waiting 30 years between trips. The Cougars made it with a pedestrian 12-11 record. But that record included four big Pac-12 wins over UCLA, Arizona and Oregon State twice, elevating Washington State to the No. 45 spot in the NCAA Net ratings. The four wins were by a total of 14 points.