The USF men’s basketball team finished the regular season with a wrenching 7-22 record after today’s 72-60 loss to the Temple Owls.
“No fault with the effort, no fault with the competitive fight of our team,” USF head coach Murry Bartow said. “And that says a lot ... just wish a couple more shots would’ve went down.”
Sophomore forward Luis Santos connected on a jumper for the first points of the game. Just the momentum they needed to head into the conference tournament. Except Temple responded with a three. Actually, make that four STRAIGHT three-pointers in a row for the Owls on a 9-2 run. Four minutes into play, junior guard Geno Thorpe knocked down the Bulls’ first shot from beyond the arc and drew the foul for two points to cut the Owls’ lead to 12-11.
USF held Temple to a three-and-a half minute scoring drought, and freshman forward Malik Fitts capped off a 8-0 run for the Bulls with a three-pointer that gave USF a 14-12 lead.
Going from 71% efficiency from the field to 42% on 0-for-5 shooting, USF was held to a scoreless three minutes before Santos layed it in. Temple tied it back up 16-16 before junior forward Bo Zeigler drew the and-one. He missed the free throw.
By the under eight timeout, the game had seen four ties and five lead changes. At one point both teams were 45 percent efficient on 9-of-20 shooting. Over an embarrassing two minutes, the Bulls went scoreless (yes, again) and turned the ball over three times to give the Owls a 27-24 lead with 3:46 to play.
“Obviously its frustrating,” Bartow said. “Why did we lose the game? We couldn’t make enough shots. That sounds real simple.”
Bad news: after a transition dunk by Quinton Rose, Fitts took a hard fall and was face down on the ground for a good minute, before heading into the locker room with what appeared to be a right ankle injury.
“Losing Fitts was a big blow,” Bartow said. “That was a big loss .. he’s our only guy in our program who’s a big, skilled, three. So when he went down it created some problems for us ... If you gave out a most improved player on our team, it might be him. Him or Santos.”
More bad news: the Bulls extended their scoring drought to five minutes and turnover count to six.
But GOOD NEWS: Thorpe ended the drought with a steal and a dunk. Which was a rare sight to see from the 6-foot-4-incher, who led the Bulls with 9 points, 2 rebounds and 1 assist after the half. Temple held a 35-26 lead.
“We didn’t play zone as much today, we tried to man them up to see if they could make shots that way,” Thorpe said. “I think it was pretty close in percentages of how we shot. The plan, I guess, worked.”
Santos grabbed the first points of the second half after drew an easy and-one on a layup. Big fella made the free throw too! Temple responded with a dunk, (*rolls eyes*) but sophomore guard Troy Holston followed up with a three-pointer. Santos added four points in the first four minutes to lead all scorers with 12 points before Thorpe mentally checked back in.
“I thought Geno really competed, and then, my gosh, Ruben and Luis just continue to battle and fight and compete,” Bartow said. “Great attitude, great energy, they’re 100 percent all in. So I can’t say enough about those two, especially.”
Five minutes into the half, Thorpe knocked down another three, and cut USF’s deficit to 44-40. The Owls responded with one of their own to begin a 6-0 run over a period of three minutes. A defensive rebound by junior guard Jake Bodway (shameless Bodway plug) led to another Thorpe three to finally end the drought, and put USF within seven points.
In a period of four minutes, USF had turned the ball over four times to rack up a hefty total of 17 with 11:02 to play.
A jumper by Thorpe cut the Bulls deficit to 58-51 and sent the Bulls on a 6-0 run while they held the Owls to a scoreless four minutes. Holston fouled a three-point shot attempt, which allowed Temple’s Daniel Dingle to knock down three from the line and extend the Owls’ lead to 10 points. At this point Temple was shooting 45 percent from beyond the arc, so with USF’s luck, Troy’s foul wouldn’t have made a difference anyways.
“I thought the defensive effort was good,” Bartow said. “Obviously they made 11 threes which was way too many.”
The rest of the game belonged to Temple. The Bulls didn’t hold the lead once. They turned the ball over a total of 19 times. They just simply couldn’t put it together. Fitts never returned to the hardwood. Thorpe led the Bulls with 21 points, Santos had 14, freshman forward Tulio Da Silva had 2, and freshman guard Mike Bibby had 0. Strange but unfortunately not a lie. See for yourself.
“You just wanna focus on one game at a time,” Thorpe said. “So that’s what we’re going to do.”
The Bulls begin AAC Tournament play on Thursday night at 8pm.
“I’m not going to sit here and say we’re going to go into the tournament and roll everybody and win the tournament,” Bartow said. “But we can beat anybody we play on Thursday.”