USF women surge past SMU to clinch 2nd American Athletic Conference crown

A game that began slowly for USF’s women ended historically.

Defensively challenged in the first half, the Bulls used a decisive third-quarter surge to pull away for a 70-62 triumph over SMU on Saturday at the Yuengling Center, clinching their second American Athletic Conference title in three years.

USF (24-5, 13-1 AAC) earned the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which starts March 6 in Fort Worth, Texas.

Down by seven in the second quarter, the Bulls finished the half with a 14-5 run, capped by senior guard Elena Tsineke’s driving left-handed layup at the buzzer. They followed with a 13-1 run in the third to build a 46-34 lead, holding the Mustangs (15-9, 6-6) without a field goal for nearly seven minutes during one stretch.

USF’s lead never fell below seven points the rest of the way. SMU, which shot nearly 50% from the floor in the opening half (11-of-25), was 10-of-28 (35.7%) in the last 20 minutes.

Tsineke led all scorers with 27 points, while 6-foot-4 classmate Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu — scoreless in the first quarter — recovered to notch her 54th career double double (12 points, 10 rebounds) and third in a row. Junior Sammie Puisis scored 18, hitting all three of her 3-pointers in the fourth.

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