The Bulls fell 59-48 to the Northern Illinois Huskies this evening in Tampa after news broke earlier today that leading scorer Jahmal McMurray had been granted a transfer by coach Orlando Antigua. USF issued the following statement from Antigua late this afternoon:
This morning, Jahmal McMurray informed me of his intent to transfer from USF. Per his request, we have agreed to grant him an immediate release to do so. I wish him the best in his future endeavors. My focus remains on leading the young men on our USF Bulls team as they continue striving for excellence on and off the court.
Antigua refused to answer questions about McMurray, and instead praised those who were still on the team, particularly freshman guard Michael Bibby. “I thought Mike did a great job for us, stepping in, as he has every time we’ve asked him to come in and play. I thought he did a really good job. I thought Geno (Thorpe) was pressing some, and he’s trying to find his rhythm, but he did a lot of good things. I thought Bo (Zeigler), starting for us, gave us great energy. He’s got to continue to do that.”
The Bulls went up early, taking a 26-24 lead into the half. But once again, USF faded late in the game. Bibby was left to act as team leader in the place of McMurray. He did a commendable job, scoring 10 points and dishing four assists, but only took six shots, electing to pass the ball more than shoot. He never really established himself as an outside threat and lacked the confidence that McMurray had brought to the floor during his brief return.
The absence of McMurray could not have been more obvious. It was a terrible shooting night for USF. Nobody was able to provide the 3-point threat as the Bulls shot only 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. Overall, the Bulls were 17-for-54 from the floor (31.5%) and 11-for-21 from the free throw line, exactly matching the 48 points the football team put up in their encounter with Northern Illinois in September.
Bo Zeigler had 10 points and eight boards before fouling out, and he was probably the biggest scoring threat the Bulls had all night. Ruben Guerrero and Luis Santos both worked hard underneath the basket against NIU’s Marin Maric, but only converted one shot between them.
The Bulls once again struggled with turnovers, coughing up the ball 21 times which turned into 17 points for the Huskies. There’s no other way to put this: the turnovers were egregious and very preventable. Poor passes and poor ball control from all over the floor doomed the Bulls, plus long scoring droughts like the four-minute stretch without a basket in the second half.
One has to hope the sudden news about McMurray was the cause of the poor play tonight, but the Bulls were bad tonight. We’ll see if they can find the form that they opened the season with when McMurray was suspended.
The Bulls return to action against Delaware on Thursday in the Sun Dome.