Despite the final score, Sunday capped off a good weekend for South Florida coach Jose Fernandez. He is back home, back on the sidelines and his team fought No. 1 UConn hard during a 63-38 loss.
UConn’s 63 points were a season-low. UConn’s 22 field goals tied a season low. And he was there for every moment of it.
“I told Geno [Aureimma] last week when I talked to him that I would be there [at the game],” Fernandez said.
Fernandez was released from the hospital Friday morning after nearly a week battling an allegoric reaction to medication he’d been taking to quell a recurrence of diverticulitis, a digestive disorder he’s been battling for a few years.
Two weeks ago, Fernandez, 42, spent three days in Florida Hospital after a flare-up of the condition which also caused him to miss the opening game of the 2009-10 season. He did not travel to South Florida’s game at Louisville on Feb. 2, but was back for victories at Memphis on Wednesday and against UCF on Saturday.
But Fernandez didn’t feel well and after the Bulls’ 35-point win last Saturday over Central Florida – the largest conference win in program history – and was readmitted Sunday.
“It was tough being in the hospital and tough being away from your team,” Fernandez said. “But it’s definitely not the way you want to lose 17 or 18 pounds.”
Banks (sort of) back to business
The loss to Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis for an indefinite period because of mononucleosis will put more pressure on UConn’s bench to contribute. But junior Brianna Banks has also had ankle injuries to deal with they will likely remain despite her return to the lineup Sunday.
Banks has missed the last two games after aggravating her injury and played just the final two minutes Sunday. Auriemma said there was nothing physically wrong with her.
“I’m not really thinking about my ankle right now,” Banks said. “I’m trying or develop my game and get right so I can play for my teammates and help them win.’’
Banks is now wearing a new ankle brace.
“It’s more of a lace-up,’’ Banks said. “I’ve played in the gray plastic ones. Now I can lace it up to give me more support around the whole ankle instead of just on the side of the ankle.’’
Freshman Saniya Chong started for the first time and played a career-high 37 minutes without scoring. She took just three shots with two rebounds and one assist. “I thought she was great,” Auriemma. “She did nothing to tell me she was overwhelmed. Little by little she will get the hang of it. Right now, the bigness of the situation is weighing on her mind. But she handled herself well and she’ll be better Wednesday [against Central Florida].”
More on Moriah
Moriah Jefferson had another great game. She scored 12 points with eight assists and eight rebounds while helping to keep USF’s leading scorer, Courtney Williams, to just seven points (3 of 18). “She has taken a huge step forward defensively,” Auriemma said. “She taking pride in that role.” Jefferson had four turnovers, but her assist-to-turnover (3.13) ratio is on pace to set the school record. Jefferson has 141 assists and 45 turnovers. … The Huskies 32-game winning streak is one shy of tying the program’s fourth-longest in history. UConn won 33 straight from Nov. 17, 1996 to March 22, 1997. Of course, its 90-game winning streak is the gold standard in NCAA Division I basketball history … Bria Hartley scored 18 points Sunday, increasing her career total to 1,758. She is close to surpassing Tiffany Hayes (1,801) to jump into the Top 10 among the program’s all-time scorers. Hartley also now has 501 assists and needs just three rebounds to join the very exclusive 1,500-500-500 club with Maya Moore and Diana Taurasi … Stefanie Dolson added eight rebounds to her career total. She now is just 29 shy of 1,000. She would be just the fifth player in UConn history to amass that many. … The official logo of the 2015 Women’s Final Four, to be held April 5-7, 2015 at the Forum in downtown Tampa, was unveiled at halftime.