It took USF more than six minutes of play to get on the scoreboard tonight, at which point they were still not out of the game. UConn's shutout was spoiled when Ruben Guerrero put back a missed layup from Nehemias Morillo. At that point, the Huskies had only scored eight points, so with almost 14 minutes left in the first half, USF was only down by six. UConn then proceeded to put together a 17-3 run which drained nine minutes from the clock. The Bulls outscored the Huskies 9-4 in the last five minutes of the first half, leading to a half time score of UConn 29, USF 14.
At the half, no Bull had made more than one shot. Guerrero had that tip-in, Jaleel Cousins had a three-point play plus another free throw, Troy Holston Jr. had hit a three, Anthony Collins and Morillo each had one two-pointer, and Bo Zeigler had made a free throw.
UConn did not look like the kind of UConn you may be used to. In the first half, Ryan Boatright, Rodney Purvis and Omar Calhoun were all victims of USF blocks. Several times, UConn could not penetrate the Bulls defense like they wanted to and settled for outside shots. The final 3:30 of the half saw the Huskies commit six fouls and two shot clock violations. And still, they were up by 15 over the despondent Bulls.
USF played much better in the second half, but were never in danger of getting back into the game. The closest they came was cutting the lead to 13 points midway through the half with some timely free throw shooting from Holston Jr. and Guerrero. Just then, Ryan Boatright, Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis all hit three pointers for UConn, securing their spot in Friday night's quarterfinal against Cincinnati. The teams traded baskets in the game's final minutes, which ended in a 69-43 UConn victory.
After grabbing a couple of wins near the end of the season and this being the first post-season appearance for six of USF's seven remaining players, it would have been nice seeing more confidence and passion from the Bulls. There was no sense that they gave it their best shot. There was no appearance of trying to end the season with a bang instead of a whimper.
Sure, UConn is the better team, but they did not play their best tonight. The Bulls could have played their hearts out and at least won the first half. They could have looked within and found that naive freshman confidence that says, I can walk into the XL Center in Hartford and outplay Ryan Boatright and UConn. Instead, they put together a spiritless performance, having apparently decided that a loss was inevitable.
It's all the same anyway; the season is over. Barring any transfers, Troy Holston Jr. looks like he could fill Corey Allen Jr.'s shoes next year. Chris Perry may be back on the court if his health improves and Anthony Collins still has a year left to play. Ruben Guerrero and Bo Zeigler look like much better players than they did in the first half of the season, and there's this guy called Roddy Peters who wants to play here, too.