The USF men’s basketball team concluded the Hoosier Tipoff Classic today with a 65-47 loss to Eastern Michigan University. In the Bulls’ third game in five days at the Sun Dome (and the last home game for a minute), they held the lead for a good portion of the game, but couldn’t close out following an ugly second half.
“Very similar to our two other losses,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said. “You take bits and pieces from each game.”
Wing Payton Banks grabbed the first points of the game on a three, and forward Malik Martin followed with a pair of free throws. Speaking of Malik, he had a heck of a game on Friday where he grabbed his first career double-double AND career highs in points and rebounds (24 and 10). Promising.
Meanwhile EMU didn’t connect from the field for a very long time. Like nearly four minutes. And that’s forever in basketball time. Anyway, USF wasn’t exactly looking so hot either at this point (25 percent from the field), but a quick 5-0 lead is something to like.
EMU’s first points came from a pair of free throws with 16:22 on the clock. Then the Eagles hit two threes and took a 7-5 lead. Bye. Guard David Collins ended the Bulls’ three-minute scoring drought with a layup, and Banks knocked down another three to regain the lead. Add another three from guard Stephan Jiggetts for a quick 10-2 run.
Forward Tulio Da Silva checked in and grabbed a steal that led to a Collins layup. And Martin grabbed the first dunk of the game. Nothing particularly spectacular, but #points.
A foul on Collins led to the under-8 media timeout followed by two free throws to get the Eagles within four points. Collins redeemed himself with a wide open three leading the Bulls to their largest lead at the time of seven points. Great! Shortly after, USF went scoreless for almost FIVE MINUTES and the Eagles eventually tied it up at 27-27. Not great. Jesus, take the wheel.
“Sometimes we just don’t shoot the ball well,” Gregory said. “And that’s going to happen. We’ve got to hang out hat on the defensive end.”
Center Nikola Scekic layed it in and ended the (extremely long, extended, excruciating, painful*) drought, and the Bulls held the Eagles scoreless for 2:24 while taking a 29-27 lead into the half. It could always be worse!
*call me dramatic, but it is what it is.
Guard Terrence Samuel drew a quick foul and hit two free throws to grab the first points of the second half. Martin followed with two of his own, and the Bulls swiftly worked their way back up to a six-point lead.
What I thought was a tip-in by Martin, but was apparently a jumper from Scekic, gave the Bulls their largest lead of the game at eight points. EMU wasn’t havin’ it and responded with a dunk to cut the score to 37-31.
“You’ve got to be assertive with the ball,” Gregory said. “We were tentative with the ball.”
The next few minutes were very slow. A scoreless four minutes allowed EMU to pull within two points. While diving for a loose ball, Banks took a hard fall and knocked down some sideline chairs. He checked out but seemed to be fine. Praise.
“We weren’t physical enough in the second half on the glass,” Gregory said. “We have to play with much more physicality around the basket.”
Extend that scoreless four minutes to EIGHT for instant grief (and to think I thought the five-minute drought in the first half was rough). A 10-0 EMU run capped off by a wide-open three gave the Eagles a 38-37 lead, and at this point it was time for a comeback, honestly. Like what on earth.
But a comeback did not go down. What actually happened is that everything went DOWNHILL. Though Da Silva ended the depressing drought with a layup, it was, OF COURSE, followed by a three from EMU to rack up a 47-39 advantage. It was ugly. You know what, the rest of the game was ugly. The final score was ugly. They really did try to hang in there, but nah. EMU eventually piled up a 15-point lead with 1:30 to play and at this point, everyone started filing out of the arena. Sigh.
“Just some growing pains and stuff you gotta deal with when you have new players and new coaches and everything like that,” Martin said.
Final score: EMU 65, USF 47.
The Bulls will travel to Elon on Thursday. Connor will absolutely be covering that game.