Despite a promising start to the game, Jelani Hewitt and the Eagles took control after about ten minutes, holding a lead of more than three points until half time. The Bulls struggled to keep up with Georgia Southern's fast pace and good defense. Also they missed nine three-pointers, which hurts.
Still, only down by four at half time, it seemed that USF would rally and wrest the game away from the Eagles. However, after 3:25 of play, the Bulls found themselves down 16 and with five team fouls already. The referees were calling everything in the second half: charging, blocking, reaching, hanging on the rim, even sweating on the floor (seriously they did stop play and call for a mop about four times toward the end of the game). All told, there were 29 fouls called in the second half, making it hard for either team to establish a rhythm.
USF executed a full court press for most of the second half, throwing off the Eagles, who had a six minute scoring drought and showed fatigue. The Bulls exploited that fatigue and cut the deficit to three with less than two minutes left. Still, USF couldn't quite get there. Down by four with eight seconds on the clock, guard Corey Allen went up for a three-pointer and tried to draw a foul, but his shot was an air ball and no whistle was blown. After the Eagles added another free throw, the final score would be 68-63.
"We weren't there mentally," said forward Chris Perry. "We don't have the best talent in the world, but we have to work with what we got." Head Coach Orlando Antigua was not satisfied with the team's mindset either; he called a time out early in the second half to scream at his team for their lack of energy. After the spirited lecture, they played with more enthusiasm, but the game stayed just out of reach. "Fighting back at the very end is not enough; we need more." said Perry. When asked what needs improvement the most, Antigua answered, "everything." He also noted that the nine days off contributed to the team's lethargic appearance.
Three point shooting was ugly in the first half but it was atrocious in the second, with zero threes made on nine tries. The Bulls missed eighteen three-pointers in all. On the positive side, Chris Perry got another double-double, with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Also, we got to see center Ruben Guerrero get a lot of playing time. He had five rebounds and two blocked shots.
USF now looks to Thursday night's game against Seton Hall to be the end of their three game skid.