USF men’s basketball dropped a heartbreaker in Memphis 58-57 in a game that saw the Bulls lead by 12 midway through the second half.
The Bulls were lead by reigning AAC Freshmen of the Week Caleb Murphy, who went for a season-high and game-high 20 points, four rebounds and three assists. However, Murphy was also credited with seven turnovers, of which the bulls committed 17 to lead to 25 Memphis points.
USF was without Alexis Yetna, who suffered a lower leg strain, but the Bulls got contribution from his replacement with Madut Akec. Akec went two-for-two from beyond the arc to get six points, along with three rebounds and forced two crucial turnovers near the end to give the Bulls a chance at winning at Memphis for the second straight season. Justin Brown continued to shoot lights out, hitting three 3’s and collecting 11 points.
With 10:42 left in the first half, Xavier Castañeda hit a jumper to extend USF’s lead to 46-34, as USF raced out to a 21-4 run in the second half, playing with confidence and swagger that has been missed on Bulls basketball teams as of late. Caleb Murphy got the run started with an absolutely filthy dunk over Moussa Cisse, the second best freshmen center in 247’s rankings last season:
This little guard for USF (Murphy) is a bonafide baller. This dunk on Mousa was crazzzy . OHHH NO pic.twitter.com/xBFoFC1MgD— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) December 30, 2020
However, the lead slowly faltered after Memphis started to press the Bulls defensively, leading to sloppy turnovers, careless handling, bad shots, and mistake-riddled basketball that has plagued the team in the past. Memphis took the lead for good with 5 minutes left after Lester Quiñones, who lead his team with 13 points, hit a corner three to put the Tigers up 51-48. Penny Hardaway’s squad was able to get balanced contribution from his team, getting three players in double-figures scoring (Lester Quiñones, DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley II).
After their third straight nail biter finish, the Bulls (5-4, 1-2 in AAC) will look to regain their confidence as they take on their rivals C. (3-2, 1-1 in AAC) on the War on I-4 on January 2nd.