In what has been a tumultuous and injury-plagued campaign for the Bulls this season, head coach Orlando Antigua received a highly sought-after gift Saturday for his 43rd birthday.
A home win.
The Bulls (7-21, 4-11), who came into Saturday’s matinee game with Memphis (15-12, 6-8) winless at home since Dec. 16, put together what was arguably their most complete performance of the season in a 80-71 AAC victory over the Tigers.
“I’m just really happy for the kids, for how they continued to fight and battle with all the different adversities and challenges,” said a relieved Coach Antigua after the win.
“They just keep working.”
Both teams appeared to get out of the gates sluggish, with Memphis only leading USF 14-10 after the first ten minutes of the game.
But, as the Bulls have done all season, they continued to grind to keep pace with the Tigers. Despite being out rebounded 28-20 in the 20 miniutes, the Bulls held a 31-30 lead going into the half.
As the second half wore on, the Bulls began to find their rhythm shooting the basketball. Junior forward Chris Perry, who was playing in his first game at home after serving a suspension, shot 7-of-12 from the field to finish with 16 points and 5 boards.
Postgame, Perry was relieved to be able to give the Bulls’ faithful at the Sun Dome something to cheer about after helping USF’s bench outscore Memphis’ 29-16 on the way to the win.
“That felt so good. I, personally, have never beat these guys,” Perry said. “Just that feeling of knowing we’re about to get this ‘W’. I just kept saying it over and over. I just felt real good.”
With the regular season nearing an end, efforts like Saturday’s win for the Bulls have Coach Antigua looking to build on this recent stint of success.
“Have we been perfect? Absolutely not,” said Antigua. “But our effort has been. So we have to continue to do that.”