TAMPA, Fla. — It was a chance for the University of South Florida to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Saturday afternoon inside the Sun Dome with an upset of the No.16/15 team in the nation, the University of South Carolina.
As the party unfolded in front of the 2,489 celebrating fans inside the most rocking basketball venue on the west coast of Florida but when the festivities came to an end, the University of South Florida fell 77-66, at the hands of the University of South Carolina.
“We wanted to take care of the ball and try to control the back board and meet their physically,” University of South Florida basketball coach Orlando Antigua said. “We wanted to get to the free throw line and I thought we did a good job at doing that!”
USF made 27 trips to the free throw line and made 18 free throws, that is a .667 percentage but the 17 turnovers committed by the Bulls were their Achilles’s heel against the Gamecocks No.2 team in the NCAA scoring defense only allowing 56.8 points per game and allowing a field goal percentage of 33.8 this season.
The offense for the Bulls had a good day shooting from the floor 42 percent, led by sophomore guard Jahmal McMurray scored a season-high 25 points, shooting 5-of-7 from behind the three-point arch but the five turn overs clouded the festivities.
McMurray made five 3-pointers for the fifth time in his career and he has made a 3-pointer in 31 consecutive games.
Helping out with the offense for the Bulls, freshman Malik Fitts with 12 points, eight rebounds in 37 minutes out on the floor for Antigua.
“He’s playing the way he’s practicing. He’s competing and being physical,” Antigua said about Fitts. “As a freshman, it takes some time to get used to playing the college game.”
What didn’t help the Bulls offense, was the zero points that junior center Ruben Guerrero put in the basket, the zero rebounds that he did not get and then the three fouls seemed to keep him out of his game.
Prior to the game, Guerrero was honored for his NCAA D1 Male Sportsmanship Award.
The University of South Carolina became the second team this season to outscored the Bulls in the paint holding a 30-24, advantage under the basket and in the middle.
“Defensively they want you out of your offensive,” Antigua said about the game plan by the Gamecocks. “We’ve got to understand that the game is 40 minutes not 20. We did a lot of positive things. We have to keep that by building those things that put us in position to win the game.”
University of South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin did not sit much on the sideline and watch his team, instead he continued to coach his team that they’ve come accustom-a scowl and a continue stare downs.
Martin looked so unhappy with his team’s execution out on the floor but instead he found a new respect for the University of South Florida that performed until the final buzzer.
The University of South Carolina shot 35.3 percent in the first half but Martin made adjustments to his offense because the Gamecocks came out of the locker room and hit 53.6 percent from the flied in the second half.
“I’ve got to tell you, when I watched them last year on film, when they got down they kind of said I can’t wait for the buzzer to sound,” Martin said after the game about the Bulls. “It’s a completely different team. I’m rooting for them. I want to see this school do well.”
There will be another chance to celebrate for the fans of the University of South Florida men’s basketball team, Tuesday night Dec. 20, complete with all of the holiday light glowing inside and outside the Sun Dome, as the Bulls welcome Northern Illinois University, tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.