Behind another stellar performance from freshman guard David Collins and an early second half surge, the USF men’s basketball team won a second straight game 65-54 over SMU on Sunday afternoon at the Sun Dome to wrap-up the regular season.
“We started out like it was senior night, the emotions were a little too high,” head coach Brian Gregory said. “We played well the last four minutes of the first half, and then really came out with great energy in the second half. Total team victory.”
Before the game, seniors Stephan Jiggets, Isaiah Manderson, Terrence Samuel and Payton Banks were recognized for their efforts in finishing off an up and (mostly) down regular season strong.
“You can’t build this thing on sand, it has to be on a rock and those guys have been a rock for us,” Gregory added. “Down the road, when we are celebrating great success...we are going to look back and understand those guys were a huge part of it.”
Trailing 27-22 at halftime, the Bulls came out firing in the second half shooting 62% (15-for-24) from the floor and 5-for-10 from three-point range to rally past the Mustangs. It’s just the second time this season the Bulls have shot over 60% from the field in a single half.
Collins led all scorers with a career-tying 21 points, 18 coming in the second half while adding two rebounds and two assists.
“I’d be hard pressed to say he’s not the rookie of the year. He’s second in scoring, first in field goal percentage, first in assists, first in steals,” Gregory said. “He’s had as good of a year as any freshman around, and he’s had as big of an impact as any freshman.”
Redshirt junior forward Malik Martin, fresh off a dominant performance in the Bulls stunning win at Memphis, finished second in scoring with 15 points and six rebounds on 7-for-9 shooting.
Fittingly, Samuel tied his career-high with 12 rebounds on senior day, adding five assists and four points.
“We’ve just been staying positive, staying with the mindset that it’s not over,” Samuel said. “Coach has been telling us that he’s going to coach us until the last day, and I feel like these players have stepped it up in practice, in terms of focusing and it showed today in the game.”
In Gregory’s first year at the helm, the Bulls (10-21, 3-15) have won back-to-back conference games for the first time since 2016 and have clinched a double-digit win season for the first time since the 2013-2014 season.
It’s a party in the Bulls locker room! pic.twitter.com/YWgcltU2Ba— USF Men's Basketball (@USFMBB) March 4, 2018
USF will look to keep the momentum going in a rematch against Memphis on Thursday in the first round of the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Orlando. Tip is scheduled for 2 p.m. on ESPNU.