Compared to the frantic pace of Saturday’s USF-TCU contest, the Bulls’ game with Southern Miss was like watching paint dry.Coming off a game in which the Horned Frogs and the Bulls combined to score 225 points, USF downshifted Tuesday to breeze by Southern Miss 74-54 before 4,064 at the Sun Dome and remain undefeated in Conference USA.
“Coach (Seth Greenberg) said that they waned to slow the game down, but we had to use our athleticism to try and speed them up and that’s what we did,” Altron Jackson said. “(We) started to turn them guys over … and started making shots.”
The collective 128 points managed by USF and Southern Miss was only 11 more than the Bulls scored by themselves against TCU.
“It was a totally different team (than TCU),” Jackson said. “Against TCU, those guys were running and gunning. (Southern Miss) just slowed it down.”
Regardless of pace, the Bulls (11-3, 2-0 in C-USA) adjusted to win their second consecutive game and third out of their last four. Jackson, who did not start for the second consecutive game, led the Bulls with 20 points (8-of-16 from the floor), connecting on 50 percent (3-of-6) from behind the three point arc.
“It was slow at first,” Jackson said of coming off the bench. “But I knew once I got in (and) the legs started cooking, I’m the type of player that plays off of energy and enthusiasm.”
Jackson entered the game five minutes in with the Bulls trailing 10-3 and off to a sluggish start. And after a layup on the break from Southern Miss’ Brad Richardson pushed the lead to 14-5, Greenberg called a 30-second timeout and berated his lifeless team on the sideline.
The strategy worked.
A minute later, Jackson drained a three-pointer and the Bulls began a dizzying run that saw USF turn a nine-point deficit into a 26-17 advantage, fueled by stingy defense and a thunderous dunk from Mike Bernard that awoke a silent Sun Dome crowd.
“When we stepped up defensively, I thought we were quick, active (and) aggressive,” Greenberg said. “I think that was the key.”
After Southern Miss’ early advantage, the Bulls held the Golden Eagles to three field goals during the final 10:58 of the first half, forcing 16 turnovers to take a 32-23 lead into the break.
And the Bulls picked up in the second half where they left off in the first. A 10-0 run out of intermission pushed the lead to 19, and the Bulls never looked back. Besides Jackson’s 20 points, Greg Brittian was the only other USF player to reach double-digits in scoring as Greenberg substituted frequently in the second half.
“I think we have a team of balance,” Greenberg said. “We had a lot of guys contribute and that’s good.”
With DePaul and Memphis up next for the Bulls, Reggie Kohn underlined the importance of beginning the conference schedule undefeated.
“It’s just nice to get a victory, nice to win (and) nice to start 2-0,” he said. “It’s nice to start off the conference with two wins going into two big games.”
- Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org