The Houston women’s basketball team handed the No. 13 USF Bulls its first conference defeat of the season in Saturday’s 67-49 win, marking the first UH victory over a top-13 opponent since the 2003-04 season.
The Cougars (15-5, 12-4 American Athletic Conference) came into the game riding a six-game winning streak, as the Bulls (14-2, 11-1 AAC) had not lost since their week one defeat to Baylor, who now sits at No. 7 in the polls. After losing the first matchup by almost 30 points, revenge was on the minds of the entire UH team.
Freshman guard and Houston native Laila Blair, who’s playing time and role has only increased as the season has progressed, got the game started with a layup and steal in the game’s first possessions.
The Cougars’ suffocating man-to-man defense came to play as they forced eight turnovers and only allowed six points in the first quarter.
The Bulls started the second quarter on an 8-0 run to briefly take the lead but the Cougars responded with a large run themselves. An and-one from sophomore forward Bria Patterson extended the Cougars’ lead to 10.
At the end of the first half, the UH women’s basketball team led the game 29-18 over USF, after ending the second quarter on an 19-4 run.
A 3-pointer from sophomore guard Britney Onyeje pushed the Cougars’ lead to 21 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter. Onyeje and Blair combined for 16 of UH’s 24 third-quarter points as the team carried an insurmountable 20-point lead into the fourth quarter.
Onyeje finished the night with eight points and a season-high 10 rebounds. Blair ended with a team-high in points (15) and steals (three), which included going a perfect 3-of-3 from beyond the arc.
“Iron sharpens iron,” said Blair postgame. “I feel like I’ve been prepared and groomed into this position, and I’ve been able to take full advantage of that and I’m thankful.”
Sophomore guard Miya Crump had an all-around game as she ended with eight points, five rebounds and a team-high four assists. Patterson came off the bench with seven points and eight rebounds.
Junior guard Dymond Gladney had 11 points before leaving in the third quarter with an apparent ankle injury. Head coach Ronald Hughey said he had no update on Gladney’s injury.
“We just put her in a boot for precaution. She was walking behind the bench and things like that,” said Hughey after the game.
Freshman guard Tae’lor Purvis came on to score the game’s last bucket, a drive to the hoop resulting in an and-one. Her teammates, along with the crowd chanted the Houston native’s name.
“Culture. Culture. Culture,” said Hughey. “That moment there sums up who we are as a team right now. Just caring for one another. It’s just so ridiculous and I’m just so excited we feel that way about each other.”
The Bulls were held to a season-low 49 points, and a season-high 24 turnovers. The Cougars were able to score 26 points off of those turnovers, the main catalyst for Saturday’s victory.
“I don’t celebrate offensive plays. I celebrate defensive plays. Defense is what fuels us, and when they (the team) start to buy into that and know that exactly, that’s when we can continue to grow,” Hughey said.
Now with a signature win, UH’s winning streak extended to seven games as it went undefeated in the month of February. The Cougars will look to close out the regular season with their eighth on senior night against Cincinnati on Tuesday at the Fertitta Center.