DALLAS — The USF Bulls were undone by a barrage of SMU three-pointers in a 84-65 loss Saturday at Moody Coliseum.
The Mustangs were 15 of 30 from behind the arc. It was one short of SMU’s school record, and also the most three-pointers a USF opponent has made in a game since those records started being tracked in 2002. Many of them were wide-open looks, as USF could never find a defense that slowed the Mustangs down.
“We tried to play some man, we tried to play some zone, we tried full-court pressure, we tried a little bit of everything,” said USF interim coach Murry Bartow. “They’re one of those teams that when you make a tiny mistake, with their length and their ability to see over the defense, and their passing ability... and then they made some timely threes.
“They don’t have a long bench, but the six guys they play are all really, really good players.”
USF started both halves brightly. Threes by Troy Holston, Malik Fitts, and Geno Thorpe helped the Bulls to an early lead. Then after falling behind by 14 points at halftime, USF started the second half on an 11-2 run to cut SMU’s lead to 46-41.
But they couldn’t get stops and SMU couldn’t stop making threes. Sterling Brown hit five, Jarrey Foster added four, and while he didn’t join in the long-distance shootout, Semi Ojeleye led all scorers with 21 points.
“Good players stepping up and making plays,” said Bartow about SMU’s response in the second half. “They’d seen enough and they made some great plays.”
The Bulls took 26 three-pointers of their own, making 11. Troy Holston put up 14 of them, two short of a school record. He made six as part of his 20-point night to lead USF in scoring.
“We don’t have a post game where we we jam the ball inside a lot,” said Bartow about the reliance on three-point shooting. “We got some pretty clean ones. I thought of those threes, about three or four of them were bad.”
SMU coach Tim Jankovich added that USF made some very difficult “flat-footed” shots that weren’t in rhythm. “They must have had five of those. I give them credit. You have to be a good player to do that.”
The Mustangs shot 54.5% from the field, yet also outrebounded USF 39-23. The Bulls had very little inside presence and only got to the free throw line six times.
“They do a phenomenal job sending four to the glass to go get rebounds and they’re very aggressive,” said Bartow. “The flip side of that is we’re not a physical team, we’re not a good defensive rebounding team. The combination of those two things is what led to a plus-16 advantage.”
Even though the game got away from the Bulls, their effort never dipped like it easily could have after a tumultuous week.
“I thought they were united and disciplined. Potentially this team could get better and better if that is going to be typical of the direction they’re going to go from here,” said Jankovich.
“I’m proud of our effort. I was pleased with the fight,” said Bartow. “We knew this wasn’t going to be an easy one. We’re disappointed, but at the same time I think we’ve got some things now we can build on.”
The Bulls have a very winnable game coming up next as they host Tulane Wednesday night at the Sun Dome. Tipoff is at 7:00 p.m.