Tonight the USF men’s basketball team snapped an insufferably long four-game losing streak with an 83-63 win over Bethune-Cookman. Guard Stephan Jiggetts led all scorers with 20 points and 5 rebounds and surpassed 1,000 career points.
“I didn’t even know I was that close to be honest, but it’s a good thing to be happy about,” Jiggetts said. “Definitely had to get that extra win in the win column. Coming off a four loss streak we had to get this one.”
Ok, so first half. I think the real story from the first twenty minutes is how the Bulls weren’t hideous from three-point range. Especially compared to a team who takes (and makes) a lot of three’s itself.
Guard Justin Brown worked himself into the starting lineup for the first time and grabbed the first points of the game with a layup.
“He stepped in and did what he had to do, especially as a freshman,” Jiggetts said. “That’s real big.”
Forward Tulio Da Silva, who hasn’t been playing so hot BUT grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds on Monday night, followed with a lay up of his own.
“I’m just getting my playing time back and I think I’m going to improve on it,” Da Silva said.”
Well, tonight that boy was ON POINT. Definitely proved himself worthy to be in the starting rotation, finishing with 15 points and 5 rebounds.
“I was really pleased with Tulio’s energy last game, so the last two games is more the way we need him to play, energy wise, effort wise, and finishing around the basket,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said. “We need that to continue.”
After two minutes, Bethune-Cookman was on the board and quickly tied it up at 4. But then came the first three! Heeey, Justin . Dare I compare the freshman guard to Jahmal McMurray? Nope. Satan ain’t gettin’ me today! Anyway, the Wildcats responded with a jumper and a layup to take a quick lead heading into the first media timeout.
“We played extremely hard, shared the ball and moved the ball,” Gregory said. “We got a lot of really good basketball from a lot of guys and that was good to see.”
Guard Payton Banks came out spicy tonight with a couple of back-to-back threes of his own. Last game he uncharacteristically went 0-for-8 from the field, so it was nice to see one of our leading scorers back on his grind.
“I thought Banks responded really well, coming off the bench created energy,” Gregory said.
Shortly after, guard Terrence Samuel hit from long range. And a little later on, Banks added ANOTHER three to take a 30-26 with under five minutes to play. I’m #HappyOnline. Call me dramatic for being excited about five three-pointers in 20 minutes, but 63 percent from long range is pretty. And it is USF.
Bethune-Cookman went on a 6-0 run over three minutes, and Da Silva was called for a technical foul, but it’s whatever. We’re looking past it. Forward Isaiah Manderson laid it in for a 36-35 lead, and the Bulls ended the half by showing off some defensive skills on the other end.
Jiggetts opened the second half with a jumper. And forward Malik Martin followed with back-to-back dunks. The Wildcats stayed in it with a couple of jumpers and layups BUT NOTHIN’ FANCY LIKE OUR GUYS.
At this point USF had tallied: THREE DUNKS. FIVE THREES. AND 60 PERCENT SHOOTING FROM THE FIELD. I don’t mean to exaggerate but #STATS.
“We knew if we got it running, we’ve got great athletes that can finish those lobs and those dunks,” Jiggetts said. “So thats what got us going.”
Adding to those stats: a Jiggetts three and a Da Silva dunk after a beautiful assist by Samuel. Man … I could get used to this! A quick 6-0 run over two minutes allowed the Bulls to take a 58-48 lead with 11:46 to play.
“Defensively in the second half we were good,” Gregory said. “We got stops, defensive stops, clean rebounds that led to some fast breaks.”
Jiggetts knocked down another three and the Bulls went on a 19-3 run to grab a 20-point lead. Worth repeating: A 20-POINT LEAD. The Wildcats tried to cut the lead but didn’t get within fewer than 17 by the time the clock ran out.
“I thought this was Stephan’s most complete game since he’s been here,” Gregory said.
If we could see some more winning basketball like this more often, the Sun Dome just might start to fill up! *reminds myself of attendance at Raymond James this year* … yeah, never mind.
USF will host Northern Arizona on Monday night at 7 p.m.