Looking for its first three game winning streak since Nov, 2014, USF (4-3) had no answer for Eastern Michigan’s (5-1) explosive second-half.
The Bulls fell 65-47 to the Eagles in the final game of the Hoosier Tip-Off Classic Sunday afternoon, in front of an announced crowd of 2,050 at the Sun Dome.
While USF was able to take a 29-27 lead into halftime, the Eagles doubled the Bulls points in the second half, out scoring USF 38-18. Eastern Michigan had four players score in double digits, with two of them posting double figures in the second half alone.
The Eagles were led offensively by junior guard Paul Jackson, who led all scorers with 15 points. Junior center James Thompson IV recorded a double-double, with 11 points and 11 rebounds. Freshman guard Malik Ellison and senior guard Tim Bond also recorded 11 points.
Despite the loss, USF head coach Brian Gregory praised the first half performance of his team.
“I thought defensively, we were really good,” Gregory said. “Rebounding-wise, we were really good. That’s how we’re gonna have to compete in games, especially when you play better teams like Eastern is.”
USF forced seven turnovers and recorded 14 defensive rebounds in the first half of the game. In the second half USF was only able to force two turnovers and eight defensive rebounds.
Offensively, USF was led by graduate guard Payton Banks with 10 points. Although Banks led the Bulls in scoring, he missed his last five shots of the game and only shot 23 percent from the field.
Freshman guard David Collins and junior forward Malik Martin each recorded eight points in the loss.
“The last game, against Arkansas State, their zone was kinda spread out,” Martin said. “Eastern Michigan is always really packed in, so it was hard to get the ball in the middle.”
Graduate guard Terrence Samuel played through pain, recording four points and nine rebounds over 30 minutes.
“I hurt my (right) ankle a little bit right before the (first) half ended,” Samuel said. “There was nothing I could do. I didn’t want to complain, but I had to play through it.
“You always gotta play through injuries. It just shows how bad you want to win. Despite what point of the year it is … this coulda been the national championship game, and your ankle hurts, you gotta play.”
While the Bulls have had a busy schedule recently, playing four games in seven days, Gregory didn’t want to make excuses for the sluggish second half.
“[Eastern Michigan] played on Friday night, on the road, and had to fly here” Gregory said. “So that would be an excuse. During this process of building our program, we’re going to try to stay away from those.”
Next up for the Bulls is a two-game road trip to North Carolina, where they will face Elon on Thursday and Appalachian State on Saturday. Both games are set for a 7 p.m. tipoff.