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USF to host Rutgers in WNIT semifinals

TAMPA – The University of South Florida Bulls will host Rutgers, a familiar rival from the American Athletic Conference, in the WNIT semifinals at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Rutgers (26-9) advanced with a 55-50 quarterfinal victory at Bowling Green on Monday night, handing the Falcons (30-5) their first loss at home this season.

“Our league has proven it was a lot stronger than everybody thought it was,’’ said USF coach Jose Fernandez, whose Bulls (23-12) advanced Sunday night with a 60-58 victory at Mississippi State, clinched by Courtney Williams’ 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“You’re going to possibly have two American Conference teams (Connecticut, Louisville) in the NCAA Final Four and now you’ve got two American Conference teams in the WNIT Final Four. We know Rutgers well. They know us well. It will be exciting.’’

Rutgers defeated USF, 63-56, on Dec. 28 in Tampa. USF beat Rutgers 60-51 on March 3 in Piscataway, N.J.

USF had a lengthy journey home from Sunday’s quarterfinals. The Bulls took a bus from Starkville, Miss., arriving in Memphis, Tenn., about 11:30 p.m. The wake-up call was at 3:30 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight, which was delayed about 90 minutes by a mechanical problem. The team touched down in Tampa around noon Monday.

“A home game sounds good right about now,’’ Fernandez said.

The WNIT championship game is Saturday at a campus site. USF won the 2009 WNIT title.

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