Tonight’s game tipped at 7PM as scheduled. You know, normal and expected stuff. But after less than two minutes of play, clock issues caused an excruciatingly long delay. Call me dramatic but this team was undefeated … and everyone needed all the positive vibes. So, MSU was up 3-2, and both teams got to re-shoot around. Not the worst thing in the world. I mean, things could ALWAYS be worse. Right? Right. With 11:40 to play... clock issues again. Smh. Truly a disaster.
Anyway, Terrence Samuel layed in the Bulls’ first field goal of the game, and shortly after, Tulio Da Silva dunked, layed it in and knocked down a free throw to take a 15-12 lead. WIDE OPEN guard Justin Brown knocked down a beautiful three and with under 10 minutes to play, center Nikola Scekic (who eventually got called for a technical foul and nobody really knows why) grabbed an offensive rebound and layed it in. Yep, he read my last article... no, really, I think he did, because apparently I rubbed some of the players the wrong way. Poor things, that was probably my kindest story yet. But thanks for reading! :)
Moving along. At this point, this is where we were:
7:26 remaining in first half. The Sun Dome crew appears to have figured out how a shot clock and scoreboard and jumbotron and horn and other normal things at a basketball game work.#USF leads Morgan State, 22-21.— The Daily Stampede (@StampedeSBN) November 14, 2017
That’s nice. Speaking of nice, a dish from guard Stephan Jiggetts to Da Silva led to another pretty dunk. But Bears’ guard Lapri McCray-Pace responded with a three to take a 26-24 lead. And then MSU held USF scoreless for three-and-a half minutes. It’s whatever though. Guard David Collins (still #NotOkay with another Collins wearing #11, don’t @ me) ended the 1-for-8 drought with an open layup. Praise.
With 24 seconds to play, walk on forward Yito Alvarado checked in. Exciting! You guys know we love the walk-ons. Unfortunately, nothing happened. Both teams were scoreless for the last two minutes of play. MSU ended on a 15-4 run and took a 32-26 lead into the locker room, while the Bulls had five turnovers in six-and-a-half minutes. Yikes. But on a brighter note, USF was 100% (7-for-7) from the free throw line!
Samuel grabbed the Bulls’ first points of the second half from beyond the arc, and Da Silva followed with a jumper to get USF within two points. Which looked really promising until the Bears went on a 13-0 run over two minutes and took a 45-31 lead. Jesus, take the wheel.
“Our defense was terrible and that’s our foundation,” Samuel said. “We’ve just got to take more pride.”
Forward Malik Martin brought the Bulls back to life with a layup after a scoreless four minutes. The Bears, of course, responded with a jumper. With 10:48 to play, wing Payton Banks knocked down a three for his first points of the night. McCray-Pace followed with one of his own. Figures. And the same EXACT thing literally happened … AGAIN. Banks three. McCray-Pace three. Not a pretty pattern. And another four minutes passed without USF connecting from the field.
“We’ve gotta tighten up on the things we can control,” head coach Brian Gregory said. “Sometimes your defense gets so much pressure put on them because offensively you’re struggling.”
Fast forward. With three minutes to play, the Bulls went on a quick 7-0 run to spark some fuel and cut the deficit to six. Not bad! But once the Bears got possession they ran the clock and racked up the points. Speaking of the clock, the refs were back to the table with a shot clock malfunction. COME. ON.
Along with the clock issues, there were just a lot of things about tonight’s game that weren’t pretty. USF’s 12 turnovers, Jiggetts’ 0-for 8 shooting from the field (and 0-for-4 from long range). MSU’s 42 percent three-point shooting. McCray-Pace racking up a game-high 15 points. All of USF’s scoring droughts and MSU’s runs. And by the way, the Bears played without their best player, Tiwian Kendley, who led the MEAC in scoring last season.
“We underestimated them from the jump,” Samuel said. “We just gotta stay focused. We just got to bring it every night."
A final dunk from Da Silva gave the Bulls their last points of the game with 14 seconds left to play before the Bears ran out the clock. USF went on to lose 63-53. Which, in accordance with tonight’s theme, could have been much worse.
“I’m not sure anybody in the white [USF] uniform today should take anybody lightly,” Gregory said. “I mean, think about that.”