Tonight the USF Bulls got a 78-76 win over the Charlotte 49ers in their last non-conference game of the season. The two teams hadn’t matched up in 12 years, formerly playing in three different conferences together.
“I thought that was a total team win for us,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said. “Some guys came up big.”
The Bulls hadn’t won three-straight games since November 14th (Flagler), 16th (Jackson State), and 20th (UAB) of the 2014-2015 season.
Charlotte opened scoring with a three-pointer. Forward Tulio Da Silva, who had himself a GAME, responded with a layup and then three minutes passed before the Bulls scored again. Ew. Shout out to Tulio for another layup, though.
Guard Justin Brown hit the Bulls’ first three of the night before the 49ers quickly responded with another one on their end. Guard Payton Banks wasn’t havin’ it and knocked one down of his own from long range to cut the deficit to 22-17. Not bad … until Charlotte went on a 9-0 run while USF committed 4 turnovers. With 8:05, USF was down 31-17.
“I thought he made some crucial, crucial shots for us,” Gregory said of Brown, who finished with a career-high 12 points. “We’re getting to a point—which is good—where when he misses, you’re surprised he missed it.”
Guard Stephan Jiggetts ended the drought with a three-pointer, and sparked a 7-0 run to cut the deficit to 31-24. The 49ers ended their scoreless two minutes with a three.
The first dunk of the night came from Da Silva. It was nothing extremely emphatic, but the Sun Dome barely responded. Sad.
USF held Charlotte scoreless for three minutes. I like it. A layup from center Isaiah Manderson and two more threes from Banks got the Bulls within 2 points, down 38-36 with 1:22 to play.
With 15 seconds left in the half, Jiggetts snuck in a nice bounce pass to Da Silva who, THIS TIME, got the Sun Dome on its feet with a slam. And a smile. Aww. A missed buzzer beater by Jiggetts from beyond the arc left USF down 41-39 at the end of the first half. That little comeback was lookin’ nice though!
“When he [Da Silva] goes out there and doesn’t think about anything going on outside of the court, he’s a beast,” Brown said.
The comeback continued! Banks tied the game up with a jumper straight out of the gates. It was almost like a clean start. And layup from Da Silva gave the Bulls a 43-41 lead. Great! The 49ers quickly knocked down a three and a layup it in to regain the lead 46-43. Not great.
USF didn’t hit a field goal for the next three-and-a-half minutes. Jiggetts finally connected with a layup, and started a 7-2 run that allowed the Bulls to tie it up at 52.
Banks left the court leaking blood after taking an unintentional hit to the face from Da Silva’s elbow. He was quickly patched up and back on the bench gettin’ loud.
“He’s fine, might need some stitches,” Gregory said. “Might have a scar there, a little battle wound. He’ll be fine.”
Brown hit another three to tie his career high 9 points. Guard David Collins, who hadn’t been on the floor since November 26 against Eastern Michigan, grabbed a steal and went to the lane for an easy layup.
At this point, the Bulls were up 59-55. Following all of this with a dunk by forward Malik Martin, another layup from Collins and a jumper from Da Silva for a 66-59 USF lead. Promising!
“Our two freshmen played really well for us,” Gregory said. “They were probably our difference makers.”
Da Silva continued to show his worth and drew the foul on a layup that tied his career-high 20 points. With 3:33 to play, he knocked down a free throw to pass that mark. 21 for #21! (… sorry, I had to do it. Yes, I am very lame.)
“I just give the credit to my team,” Da Silva said. “We shared the ball well. We came out playing hard. And I think I did a good job as well with my team, too.”
Charlotte kept it close and worked their way to a three-point deficit with 1:24 to play.
Banks … allegedly … travelled with 28 seconds to play, and both teams fought hard on the other end. The 49ers gained possession and appeared ton turn it over after being double-teamed by Banks and Martin. The refs were clearly blind and ruled it last touched by USF … even after reviewing the play. That is a joke, but we move along. Charlotte went for the win with a three (rightfully so, because they hit 12 on the night with 48% accuracy), but thankfully missed and lost. Go Bulls.
“We really just came together these past few games,” Brown said. “We didn’t really care who scored, who played well. We just all played together.”
So, on a career night* from Tulio, 49% shooting from the field, and 28 bench points, USF ended the night with a 78-76 win.
*That boy had 23 career-high points, a career-high in field goals made AND field goal attempts. On Monday night against Nothern Arizona he hit 2-for-4 in 16 minutes. Tonight’s Tulio is the Tulio we need to see!
“Those guys know its not based on statistics,” Gregory said. “It’s based on are you playing hard? Are you disciplined? Are you focused on what we’re trying to get done?”
Side note: Former USF interim head coach Murray Bartow called the game on ESPN tonight. It’s funny how life happens.
USF will host Houston on Thursday, December 28, at 7PM for their first American Athletic Conference matchup of the season.