The Bulls fell to Memphis 85-75 tonight for their 10th straight loss. Welp.
“I’m proud of our guys, I’m proud of our team,” head coach Murry Bartow said. “We competed hard, fought hard, just not enough. But I am proud of the effort, proud of the fight.”
Sounding a lot like Orlando Antigua there ... but anyway ...
Junior center Ruben Guerrero opened scoring with a layup in the first 30 seconds, and honestly grabbed attention because lately his numbers* haven’t exactly been superb. USF hung in there for the first five minutes of play, you know getting our hopes up as per usual. At the first timeout the Bulls were up 7-6, which we totally embraced. But a 10-0 Memphis run quickly sucked all of the fun out of everything.
*Those two points were the only ones Ruben had all game. Finished with two points, two rebounds … and four turnovers. Smh.
“With me being the point guard I have to take care of the ball better,” freshman guard Mike Bibby said. “Turnovers really did kill us. We just really have to take care of the ball better. Starting with me.”
But wait! With under two minutes to play, USF went on a 12-4 run to cut the lead to eight and pique our interests again. YES! The Bulls continued the entertainment with a NASTY block by junior forward Bo Zeigler, which allowed freshman forward Malik Fitts to sink it in at the buzzer … and turn the Sun Dome ALL THE WAY UP. Don’t let the crowd size fool you.
“I guess I was pretty much feelin’ it,” Fitts said. “We lost one of our key players [Thorpe, out with ankle injury] for the last two games ... he’s one of our leading scorers. So I felt like I just had to be more aggressive.”
USF ended the half on a 17-6 run and were only down by five, paced by Fitts’ 12 points. OKAY! But the Bulls also had 11 turnovers and hit just two of nine from beyond the arc compared to the Tigers’ five of 11. NOT OKAY!
“How do you stop them from getting threes? Half that’s on us,” Fitts said. “We gotta move quicker, pretty much. Get there with our hands up. Contest the shot better.”
During the first possession of the second half, freshman forward Tulio Da Silva connected with the basket and cut the Bulls’ deficit to three points (35-32). ALL EYES ON YOU, TU. Except I actually blinked for like two seconds and somehow the score became 50-37. How that happened is a mystery … (but not really a mystery, a 13-5 run by Memphis).
“The three freshman really all played well. Tulio did some good things. Malik Fitts was amazing. I thought Mike Bibby did some good things.” Bartow said. “I love Tulio ... I’ve probably gotta do a better job getting Tulio more touches. We’ve got to do a better job of making [him] into more of a star, because [he’s] really talented. Really talented.”
The horror continued. The Bulls held the Tigers scoreless for FOUR MINUTES but were still down 11 points with eight minutes to play. In the following four minutes, Memphis extended its lead to 17 points. And to add salt to the wound, with under two to play, the Tigers put in their backups. At this point it was pretty much (definitely) over.
But on a brighter note … HAVE YOURSELF A NIGHT, FITTS. He more than doubled his career-high in points (formerly 12), with 28 points, 11 rebounds, and 2 assists.
“Well, I didn’t expect him to do what he did,” Bartow said on Fitts’ performance. “But I’ll tell ya, he is a hard worker. He’s a great kid, works his tail off, and is getting better and better and better.”
The Bulls will travel to Temple on Sunday for a 1:00 tipoff. Keep an eye out for Thorpe’s return.
"We were very hopeful he'd play tonight, but he didn't feel like he was ready to go," Bartow said. "I hope Sunday.”