If coach Seth Greenberg wakes up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat screaming the name Antonio Burks, it would be hard to blame him.
Burks, for the second consecutive time against South Florida, tormented the Bulls, scoring 26 points in leading Memphis to a 71-59 victory Wednesday at the Sun Dome.
“(Burks) made shots, so congratulations to him,” Greenberg said. “He had one of those nights tonight so you’ve got to give him credit.”
Burks, who scored a team-high 16 points in the Tigers win against the Bulls Jan. 15, eclipsed his previous career high set against – you guessed it – South Florida. Burks was a torrid 12-of-19 from the field, including a team-high three steals.
“My job on him was … to help double team the post and get back to him,” Reggie Kohn said. “But I did not count on him making shots at all. That’s not what he does.”
Expect against South Florida.
The Bulls concentrated their defensive effort once again on Dajuan Wagner (16 points), but as was the case in the first meeting at Memphis, Burks made them pay.
Memphis jumped out to a 31-17 lead when Burks connected on a pull-up jumper in transition with 6:27 to play in the first half. But the Bulls responded with a 9-0 run to close the half. Altron Jackson corralled the rebound, threw the ball ahead to a streaking Reggie Kohn who then passed back to Will McDonald for a thunderous dunk at the buzzer that capped the run and tied the score at 36.
McDonald’s tip-in to open the second half gave the Bulls their first lead of the game, and the two teams traded baskets until Jackson’s layup put South Florida ahead 48-46.Then came the run.
Memphis reeled off a tsunami-esque 19-0 run fueled by 11 points from Burks, including a fall away three-pointer – off the backboard. The Bulls went nearly eight minutes without a basket while Memphis seemingly couldn’t miss. When the dust settled, the Tigers were ahead 65-48 ,and the Bulls hopes of a National Division title were history.
USF outrebounded the Tigers 43-28, but it was Memphis’ box-and-one defense that made the Bulls offense look disjointed during the game-defining run. Neither Greenberg nor his players had any explanation for the Bulls inability to solve a Tigers’ defense that forced 22 turnovers.
“We’ve played against box-and-one’s this year,” Greenberg said. “We just didn’t respond and that was the difference. Plain and simple.”
Jackson said the Bulls got caught off guard.
“We didn’t expect them to go box-and-one like that,” Jackson said. “We were so spaced out, we weren’t finding the open spots.”
Jackson paced the Bulls with 16 points, but McDonald (11 points, 11 rebounds) was the only other USF player to score in double digits.