MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The game started out as a shock for the 11,955 in attendance inside the Fed-Ex Forum. At the 18:42 mark of the first half the University of South Florida basketball team opened up the game with a 7-0 run against the University of Memphis.
The moment was fleeting though and like the muddy water of the Mississippi River, the lead drifted away and the Tigers came back and shook off the momentary Memphis-Blues and sent the Bulls on their way back to Tampa with another defeat.
Despite shooting 39 percent from the floor the Bulls dropped their fourth straight American Athletic Conference game 62-56, interim coach for the University of South Florida Murray Bartow believes his team is making strides and are going to get better.
“I am really, really proud of the effort,” Bartow said after the game. “We are going to get better and one of these days and it will show up on the scoreboard.”
Memphis settled down and started to work on the deficit, led by junior guard Markel Crawford who scored a game-high 30 points. He led the Tigers in the first half on their own seven point run and with 8:30 left in the first half, Memphis enjoyed their first lead of the game.
University of Memphis basketball coach Tubby Smith said that he was impressed by the energy out on the court that Crawford came to the court with tonight, he seemed ready to play the game.
“I thought he was focused and had great energy,” Smith said. “He didn’t hesitate when he caught the ball and he felt that he was open and uncontested. He did everything we try to teach players to do on a regular basis.”
Bartow said that he was happy to see the way his back line of junior center Ruben Guerrero and sophomore forward Luis Santos are playing together.
“That is back-to-back games where both Ruben and Luis played with great energy,” Bartow said about his two big men. “Ruben and Luis is giving everything they got and they like playing together and we tried that more tonight.”
Santos scored three points and seven rebounds and blocked two shots.
Guerrero moved into seventh place in USF history in blocking shots with 106 in his career as a Bull and tonight, he finished the game with a season-high of four blocks, nine points and five rebounds.
Smith said that he believed that the Tigers had trouble recognizing the defense that the Bulls played.
“I think they confused us a lot with their changing,” Smith said. “They played a 2-3 or 1-3-1 and kept changing up their coverage. We were able to make point blank shots. We had up to 16 but then gave it up once fatigue hit us.”
With just 2:11 left in regulation, Guerrero dunked the basketball and he was fouled, he completed the old fashion three-point play making the score 56-54, but the Bulls could not overcome the fouls and the Tigers at the free throw line.
USF offense led by freshman forward Malik Fitts career-high of 12 points which all came in the second half of the game and by guard Geno Thorpe, he scored 12 points, pulled in three rebounds, had four steals but Thorpe turned the ball over five times.
USF still having trouble with ball security turning the ball over a season-high 22 times that the Tigers converted into 16 points
“We had great energy the last 10 minutes of the game. Our guys were engaged, we felt we could come back and win it,” Bartow said about his team’s closing out the game. “The timeouts were great, the energy was great, they were shocked that we didn’t win in the end. We lost by six, we had our chances there late. We didn’t execute some things maybe in the last couple minutes on some of those late game situations
USF will continue out on the road as they travel north up the interstate to the city of Orlando to take on the University of Central Florida Tuesday night at the CFE Arena starting at 7 p.m.
Bartow would like nothing better than to shock the Knights and bring back home-the Bulls first conference win.
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.