LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) — South Florida was ready for the challenge of playing Texas Tech on its home floor.
“This crowd was huge, it was very loud,” Andrell Smith said.
“We knew we’d hit adversity. We knew at the end of the day we had to stay together as a team and I think that’s what we did tonight.”
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Inga Orekhova had 20 points to lead No. 10 South Florida past Texas Tech 71-70 in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
The Bulls hit 5 of 6 free throws to seal the win down the stretch.
Smith added 13 points, including two of those free throws, in the win over the seventh-seeded Lady Raiders.
Coach Jose Fernandez said he wasn’t surprised by his players’ toughness in hitting the free throws.
“We work on a lot of those game situations in practice,” said Hernandez, who earned his first NCAA tournament win in 13 seasons.
“It showed that our kids were never rattled down the stretch, and that’s a credit to them.”
It was the first NCAA tournament win for South Florida.
“We’ve been on the wrong side of that bubble three times where our name doesn’t come up on selection day and you know your program had been in the Big East eight years and seven of those years we went to postseason. (The win over the Lady Raiders) means a lot, it means a lot.”
Texas Tech led most of the way, but three straight field goals by Smith with about 13 minutes left gave South Florida a 46-44 lead.
Christine Hyde hit back-to-back baskets to tie it at 59 and Orekhova hit her final 3 to tie it at 66 with 1:09 left.
Smith hit two free throws, Tiffany Conner added one and Alisia Jenkins hit two with four seconds left to make it 71-67 and seal the win for the Bulls (22-10).
Hyde scored 20 points and Chynna Brown added 17 to lead Texas Tech (21-11).
The Bulls will play No. 2 seed California in the second round Monday night.
Kelsi Baker fouled out with just more than five minutes left. Her inside presence was missed.
“Nobody wants to foul out but everybody wants to play the whole game,” said Baker who finished with 15 points. “It was just a tough call and we had to live with it and keep playing.”
When Texas Tech hit a 3 — it finished with seven — the Bulls came right back.
“Every time we would try to get a lead they would come back and answer right back — they responded,” Monique Smalls said. “But I’m proud of my team. They didn’t stop fighting.”
Viewers watching the final few minutes of the game on ESPN missed the end when the network’s feed cut out. A fuse blew in the production truck, according to a statement put out by Texas Tech and the network.
Announcer Cara Capuano called the final 30 seconds over the phone. The feed finally came back after the final buzzer sounded, showing South Florida’s cheerleaders celebrating the victory.
Orekhova was 6 of 13, including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc.
Smith and her sister Andrea Smith were contained in the first half, finishing with a combined four points. But Andrell Smith got hot in the second half and her team needed it.
The Lady Raiders went cold from the field in the second half, getting just two field goals in a 10-minute span.
When they did start to hit some it was too late. Akila McDonald got a 3-point play to put the Bulls up 57-52 with 5:41 remaining.
The Bulls outrebounded the Lady Raiders 45-40 and outscored them 28-22 in the paint.