TAMPA, Fla. — Dulcy Fankam Mendjiadeu scored 21 points, Sammie Puisis had a double-double, and No. 25 South Florida rallied past SMU 65-63 on Saturday.
USF coach Jose Fernandez won for the 119th time in the American Athletic Conference and passed UConn coach Geno Auriemma for first place on the conference list.
A quick 7-0 run capped by Marina Asensio's 3-pointer midway through the fourth quarter put the Bulls up 57-55, their first lead of the second half. Upset-minded SMU responded with two 3-pointers from Jasmine Smith and the Mustangs led 63-59 with 4:07 remaining but would not score again.
USF scored the next six points, capped by back-to-back layups from Fankam Mendjiadeu for a 65-63 lead with 59 seconds left. Still trailing by two, SMU forced a turnover with 16 seconds left but Chantae Embry missed a driving layup and Puisis grabbed the rebound with five seconds left. SMU came up with another steal but Aerial Wilson blocked Smith's 3-point try as time was running out.
Puisis had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Elena Tsineke scored 15 points for the Bulls (22-4, 11-0). Fankam Mendjiadeu grabbed eight rebounds.
South Florida won its 12th straight and matched the 2020-21 team for the program's best start in AAC play. The Bulls had a 42-24 rebounding advantage and made all 16 of their free throw attempts.
Smith scored 26 points and Savannah Wilkinson and Reagan Bradley scored 14 each for the Mustangs (14-7, 5-4).
SMU scored the final six points of the first quarter to take an 18-8 lead and Bradley opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer for a 13-point lead. The Bulls battled back and took a 30-28 lead when Fankam Mendjiadeu completed a three-point play with 1:43 left in the first half. The score was tied at 32 at halftime.
After an early tie, SMU led throughout the third quarter, but never by more than six. The Bulls were within 47-45 after a steal and fast-break layup by Asensio before Wilkinson scored four of the Mustangs' last six points of the quarter for a 53-48 lead heading to the fourth.