I know the Thanksgiving season is over, but the USF men’s basketball team wasn’t trash for the ENTIRE game tonight against Kennesaw State. Like, it was actually FUN to watch them for the first half, and THAT IS SOMETHING I AM PERSONALLY THANKFUL FOR. However, the second half the Bulls were the Bulls and blew the opportunity to run away with as much as a 21-point lead. AND THAT IS SOMETHING I AM PERSONALLY NOT THANKFUL FOR. Because my heart cannot handle the emotional rollercoaster and disappointment it faced tonight. (@USFMENSBASKETBALLTEAMWHOCLEARLYDOESNOTCAREABOUTME).
I mean, USF still got the 71-69 win over Kennesaw State … but still. What the heck.
So, the first quarter. Before the horror began….
Six days away from competition seemed to have served the Bulls right. Tulio Da Silva continued to be a spark for USF that would have been really nice to have last season, but that’s beside the point. The freshman forward reached a new career high in the first half, racking up 15 points to lead all scorers heading into the locker room. Oh, and he had a nasty dunk.
“He’s such a talent,” head coach Orlando Antigua said on Da Silva’s performance. “His best basketball is way ahead of him, and he’s just starting to scratch the surface on what we think he can become for us.”
Not far behind Da Silva with 13 first-half points was sophomore guard Troy Holston, making all four of his three-pointers. As a team the Bulls shot 72% from the field, hitting 18 of 25 shots and six of eight three-pointers.
“In the first half we kind of ran one or two consistent plays back to back and they couldn’t really stop it,” Holston said.
Junior forward Bo Zeigler was out sick, giving Michael Bibby the chance to start.
“I think some of the leftovers might have got him a little bit,” Antigua laughingly said.
In place of Bo, Bibby grabbed six points and four assists in the first half … not bad if I say so myself. And, in a matter of three possessions, he hit a three, stole the ball, and drew a charge to give USF an early 7-5 lead over the Owls.
“Confidence-wise, my teammates gave me the confidence,” Bibby said “When I’m open they pass me the ball, they tell me to shoot when I’m open. I think the chemistry is building.”
So bouncing off Bibby’s performance, in which I don’t think the numbers add up to what it looked like he was doing out there but whatever, the young guys started off playing GREAT. Which is a good sign for future seasons. Then again, we have zero seniors, so what am I even saying? Just let me be happy for the entertaining first half performance from these guys, OKAY?! (it’s soon coming to an end anyways). So, 41 out of 48 (85 percent) of USF’s first half points came from freshman and sophomore Bulls. OKAY, COME THROUGH.
“I think we executed really good in the first half,” Bibby said. “We had 12 assists I think in the first half, we were really moving the ball the way we liked it. And that’s how we built that lead.”
After the first 20 minutes of play, USF held a 48-27 lead. Yes, this is the University of South Florida Bulls I’m talking about. Don’t believe me? Check out the stats from USF’s largest halftime lead under Antigua.
DISCLAIMER: Stop reading here to avoid disappointment.
Welp, that didn’t last long. The start of the second half was absolutely atrocious. Kennesaw State came out of the gates ready to cut their deficit and went on a 14-1 run to reduce the deficit to seven at the 13:28 mark. The Owls forced three turnovers and held the Bulls scoreless for four and a half minutes.
“With a young team you have to learn how to continue to compete and not look at the score when you have a lead,” Antigua said. “Because you know teams are going to make adjustments and are going to come out and I think now they’ll listen a little bit.”
Junior guard Geno Thorpe took a HARD, shoulder-to-face foul by Kennesaw State’s Aubrey Williams. I mean I know our football team is really lookin’ great right now (shameless plug, fight me) but this is our BASKETBALL TEAM on the court, and somebody should have told the Owls that while they’re out here trying to get away with targeting people. Anyway, let me not get sidetracked…
A halfcourt steal by freshman forward Malik Fitts allowed Da Silva to break away for his second slam of the game. The Sun Dome was fired up. Almost as fired up as they were about Thorpe taking that hit. I digress. Again.
Other than Da Silva’s dunk, the Bulls ONLY scored off free throws until 11 minutes into the half, when Fitts finally connected. Thorpe quickly added a layup of his own, and it looked like the Bulls might have regained their momentum. But it didn’t last long.
“I think we were undisciplined,” Bibby said. “We were told to run some plays and we couldn’t really get into them. I mean we kind of went off track a little bit.”
The horror continued. Holston finally missed a three. The Bulls suffered back-to-back shot clock violations. The Owls cut the deficit to two, and Da Silva (who finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds) fouled out in the last two minutes of play. Junior guard Jake Bodway missed two clutch free throws with four seconds to play. Overall, it was just a downward spiral of frustration.
But going back to things to be thankful for… EVERYONE SHOULD BE BEYOND THANKFUL that Kennesaw State missed a game winning three-pointer at the buzzer (though barely, by a foot) … and that Bulls crawled away with a 71-69 win. I mean, a win is a win right? Ugh, you tell me.
“As a team, individually, collectively, we’re just trying to improve daily with the guys that we have,” Antigua said. “Just trying to get 1% better each day.”