Despite trailing by as much as 13 in the first half, the USF men’s basketball team rallied for a 72-68 overtime victory over last-place East Carolina in front of 5,707 at the Yuengling Center on Sunday night, securing the program’s first five-game winning streak in conference play since 1992.
“When we play really well, we can compete with just about anybody. If we don’t play well, we’re not gonna beat anybody,” head coach Brian Gregory said. “You’ve got to give our guys credit.”
The Bulls (17-6, 7-4 AAC) fell behind 17-7 early on after the Pirates knocked down six of their first eight three-balls. ECU built up a 39-28 halftime lead and shot nearly 70% from the floor in the opening half.
Fueled by sophomore David Collins, the Bulls used a 14-2 run in the second half to grab a 47-45 lead with just over 12 minutes remaining.
Collins finished with a third straight 20-point outing, registering a team-high 21 points, nine rebounds, five assists and knocking down nine of 12 crucial free throws.
“It feels great because we work hard. This was our vision the whole time,” Collins said. “We knew we had people doubting us. We just had to go out there and show everybody that we’re here.”
Trailing 62-60 with 12 seconds remaining, junior Laquincy Rideau tied the game at the free throw line to send the game into overtime. The Bulls, ranked 329th nationally in free-throw percentage at 63%, went 6-for-8 from the charity stripe during the final minutes of regulation and dropped in 10 of 14 in the extra period to secure the win.
Rideau finished with 12 points, four assists and four rebounds.
Including the final minutes of regulation and all of overtime, the Bulls didn’t make a field goal for over 11 minutes.
“We didn’t score a basket for the last six minutes or in overtime, but we scored 16 points because we’re an aggressive, hard-charging team and we’ve gotten better shooting the free throws,” Gregory added.
Sophomore Mayan Kiir finished second in scoring with 13 points, hauling in six boards and had the defensive play of the night with a key block at the buzzer to send force the game into overtime.
As a team, USF shot 42% (21-for-50) from the floor, 39% (7-for-18) from three-point range and most importantly 70% (23-for-33) from the free throw line.
“We held them to 38% in the second half and 25% in the overtime,” Gregory said. “We outrebounded them, 46-22, and the final piece that we do so well is we get to the free throw line, and it makes a big difference.”
USF returns to action on Wednesday night in Oviedo for a massive showdown with C. at 7 pm. on ESPNEWS.
- Star freshman Alexis Yetna missed a second straight game with a hamstring injury. “Yetna is a day-to-day. He’s moving around much better,” Gregory said of Yetna’s status for Wednesday.
- USF improved to 13-2 at home this season.