The USF Bulls (7-7, 0-1 AAC) opened American Athletic Conference play tonight with a 79-60 loss to the Houston Cougars (11-2, 1-0 AAC).
“Give them credit, they beat us,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said. “But we didn’t wilt when we could’ve ... Our guys, we fought ... Probably could’ve caved in early and didn’t.”
Before the game tipped, we were told that USF guard Payton Banks would not play due to “illness” which instantly made me low key sick myself. Going against a 10-2 team without one of our leading scorers? I faint.
“We’re going to face adversities like that during the season,” freshman guard Justin Brown said. “Other people gotta step up when a big player like Payton goes out. The next person has to be ready to play.”
Brown, who recorded a career-high 16 points, was clearly ready himself and stepped up to start in place of Banks. Not a bad replacement, that boy has heart.
“Very, very pleased with our freshmen and the way they competed from the opening tip to the final buzzer,” Gregory said.
Houston opened on a 6-0 run in the first minute or so of play. Hate it when that happens. Guard Terrence Samuel got the Bulls on the board with two free throws. The Cougars responded with a three. Center Nikola Sceckic made USF’s first field goal—his only points of the first half.
By the first media timeout, the Bulls were down 16-5 on 20 percent shooting compared to Houston’s 75 percent. HIDEOUS. But coming out of the timeout, guard Stephan Jiggetts (who is only 6-foot-1, so, yes, this is exciting) blocked a layup, which led to one on the other end from forward Tulio Da Silva. Ok, ENERGY!
Brown knocked down a three to cut the deficit to 16-10. Samuel hit from long range, too, and the Cougars of course responded with one of their own. Forward Isaiah Manderson got the Sun Dome crowd on their feet with the opportunity to create a three-point play. He drew the foul but missed the free throw.
“We give a lot of drives up that open up threes,” freshman guard David Collins said. “And they knocked down shots.”
File Collins under players who were hot from beyond the arc. His three would’ve been GREAT had Houston not went on an 8-0 run over the next three-and-a-half minutes.
“Two most important things: One, they’re not scared,” Gregory said on Brown and Collins. “The second thing is they are high energy players. They play hard.”
You know things are either going REALLY well or not great at all when the walk-ons get subbed in. Welp, enter guard Henry Beard. (We love Hank over here at The Daily Stampede Dot Com, but you can see this wasn’t a great sign).
“I’m comfortable with throwing him in there,” Gregory said. “We have a pretty competitive scout team.”
After five (FIVE!!!!!) minutes without hitting a field goal, Brown knocked down another three. Thank you, Jesus! And forward Malik Martin put up his first points of the night with a dunk.
Fast forward to the final two minutes of the half, and insert a 6-0 run that cut the Bulls’ deficit to 40-31. We’ll take it! We’ll also take the Cougars not scoring for three minutes because they need to learn how to TREAT OTHERS THE WAY YOU WANT TO BE TREATED.
USF entered the locker room down 42-33.
Brown opened second half scoring with a pretty little floater. But Houston wasn’t havin’ it and went on a 12-0 run. The Bulls were held to another scoreless five-minutes where they committed three turnovers. A jumper from Manderson ended the painfully long drought.
“I think they really hit us on the boards in the second half,” Collins said. “And they were getting second chance shots. They were just more efficient.”
Two free throws from Jiggetts, another jumper from Manderson and another three from Brown cut the deficit to … 60-44. You know what, at this point the game actually became hard to watch.
“We just gotta get a full effort the whole game. First and second half, and I think we’ll be fine,” Collins said.
USF had no energy and no shots falling. They went 1-for-11 until Brown connected from deep. Even though the Cougars didn’t hit a field goal for 2:30, they held a 79-54 with three minutes to play. The Bulls went on a little 6-0 run but it didn’t really do anything.
“Its gotta be 40 minutes, 110 percent,” Brown said. “If we do that there’s a way better chance we’ll win.”
With 25 seconds to play, another walk-on, guard Yito Alvarado, checked in. At least he and Hank can say they’ve gotten conference playing time? Idk trying to be positive here lol.
The Cougars ran away with a 79-60 win over the Bulls. Brown led all scorers with a career-high 16 points and Collins recorded a career-high 15 points of his own. Meanwhile Jiggetts and Da Silva combined for 6 total points. That hurts.
USF travels to SMU for a New Year’s Eve showdown with former Bulls guard Jahmal McMurray then come home to face the only team USF beat in conference play last year (if the program existed last year) the ECU Pirates on Wednesday at 7PM. Come through.