Haave era off to decent start; Dons eager for conference play 

Having knocked off three of its past four opponents — including a 67-64 victory over a Florida State team once ranked in the Top 25 — the USF women’s basketball team is riding a relatively high wave of success heading into West Coast Conference play.

Not bad for a 6-9 team that had to adjust to a new coach and offensive scheme, while playing a nonconference schedule that featured seven teams that made the postseason in 2005-06.

"You’re never completely satisfied as a team," said first-year coach Tonya Haave, who played collegiately at powerhouse Tennessee, leaving the school as the all-time leading scorer [the mark has since been broken]. "But the progression I’m seeing this team make is very gratifying. For all they’ve had to absorb, they’ve really been able to make great improvements."

The Dons dropped eight of their first 11 games before shocking the Seminoles in front of the home crowd at War Memorial Gymnasium, giving USF some much-needed momentum as it wrapped up its pre-conference schedule.

While USF has still struggled to score (just 56 points per game), it has been able to stay in games by protecting the ball (averaging only 11.5 turnovers) and locking down teams defensively (allowing 63 points per game).

The Dons’ progress will be heavily tested on Saturday, when USF travels to the San Diego, a team off to its best start in school history at 11-3, in both teams’ WCC opener.

"We want to make a statement to the conference that we will be a team to keep an eye on," said Haave, whose Dons were predicted to finish seventh in the WCC. "This will be huge for our confidence if we can get a win."

Against the Toreros, USF will rely on junior guard Dominique Carter, a two-time first-team All-WCC selection and the Dons’ leading scorer at 14.9 points per game.

"I just try to lead by example," said Carter, who recently surpassed 1,000 careerpoints and currently sits at 1,037. "I’m not a big talker, so I try to work hard and play hard and let my actions speak for themselves."

Carter will get some assistance from backcourt mate Shay Rollins, a sophomore point guard leading the team in assists (3.1 per game), and senior forward Nickie Warren and junior center Lisa Olden (averaging at combined 15 points per game).

"We have a chip on our shoulder," Carter said. "We were picked to finish near the bottom of the conference again and we want to prove the doubters wrong."

GAME DAY

USF (6-9, 0-0) vs. San Diego (11-3, 0-0)

WHEN: Sunday, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Jenny Craig Pavilion, San Diego

TV: None

RADIO: KUSF (90.3 FM)

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Will Reisman

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