DALLAS — It was not the start that University of South Florida interim basketball coach Murray Bartow wanted to see happen.
Bartow taking over the duties as the man in charge after former USF men’s basketball coach Orlando Antigua was summoned to University of South Florida Athletic Director Mark Harlan’s office Tuesday morning January 3 and was told that his services to the University of South Florida were no longer needed.
Antigua worked 2 ½ years as the men’s basketball coach at USF and under his watch the Bulls have lost 13 players to either disciplinary actions or the student-athlete have transfer to other programs, endured a 23-55 overall record and the center of an NCAA investigation for academic violation, which didn’t help Antigua keep his job.
Bartow hired by Harlan during the summer stepped away from East Tennessee State University where Bartow led that team for 12 years, won 224 games and five conference championships.
Inside the best place in the city of Dallas to see a basketball game the grand old Moody Coliseum 6,769 watched the Mustang set the nets on fire by shooting 64 percent from the floor in the first half. SMU defeated the University of South Florida 84-65, sending the Bulls deeper into the basement of the American Athletic Conference.
“We tried to play some man, we tried to play some zone, we tried to play full-court pressure, we tried a little bit of everything,” Bartow said. “SMU they’re one of those team that when you make a mistake, with their length their ability to see over the defense and their passing ability, they make you pay.”
USF did have some bright moments in the game, the Bulls did have an early lead of 6-2 but midway in the first half the Mustangs went on an 18-3 run and took a 14-point lead into the locker room.
Both teams came back to the court and USF started the second half by working extra hard and got into the lead by SMU and cut it down to five points but at the 16:12 mark the Bulls chance of a comeback came to an abrupt end as SMU went on a 25-7 run and burst the dream for Bartow and the Bulls.
USF did score a season-high 11 three pointers but the porous Bulls defense also allowed the Mustangs to score a season-high 15 three pointers, out rebounded the Bulls 39-23, including SMU crashing the offensive boards and collected 15 offensive rebounds and turned them into 19 points.
University of South Florida sophomore guard Troy Holston led the Bulls with 20 points which included a career-best behind the arch making six from beyond the arch.
Bulls red-shirt freshman forward Tulio Da Silva finished the game with 12 points and nine rebounds just one shy from recording his third double-double.
USF guard Geno Thorpe shot 50 percent from the field and six assist and Thorpe did get some help from freshman forward Malik Fitts with eight points and a career-high four assist.
SMU’s offense had four players in double figures, the Mustangs led by forward Semi Ojeleye with 21 points and he pulled in six offense rebounds.
USF just could not overcome the blistering of the basket that the SMU offense provided. Ending the game shooting 54.5 percent from the field including shooting 50 percent from behind the three-point arch.
Bartow said that his team will be hard working team focusing on both sides of the court.
“What I can promise to the fans is we’re going to work incredibly hard. Nobody is going to outwork us with what we do on a daily basis,” Bartow said. “We’re going to grind, we’re going to work and I think you’ll see a team that will grow and get better over the coming weeks and the coming months.”
The next game for Bartow and the Bulls will Wednesday night Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. inside home sweet home the Sun Dome against Tulane University.
As the University of South Florida players and coaches boarded the plane to leave the city of Dallas behind and as the jet disappear into the Texas night it is obvious that there is plenty of work ahead of the Bartow and the Bulls.
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.