Altron Jackson scored 16 of his team-high 22 points in the second half, and the South Florida defense put the clamps on Tulane down the stretch as the Bulls defeated the Green Wave 76-65 Saturday at the Sun Dome.
“(Tulane) has a good road record, and they played Memphis down to the wire,” Jackson said. “So we knew they were going to come out hard and aggressive. So in the second half we matched their intensity and came out with the win.”
The victory pulled the Bulls within a game and a half of Charlotte for fourth place in the Conference USA overall standings. The top four teams in the league receive first-round byes in the C-USA Tournament March 6-9 in Cincinnati.
“It’s a conference win. It’s huge, especially late in the season,” Bulls point guard Reggie Kohn said. “People get knocked off now. Whether it’s by one or by 10, whatever it is, a win’s a win.”Tulane raced out to a 34-31 halftime lead, but USF forced five turnovers in the final five minutes, resulting in a knee-buckling 16-6 run to close the game.
Leading 63-59, following a pair of Jimmy Baxter (six points, four steals) free throws, B.B. Waldon (eight points, 4-of-4 shooting) stole the ball and got it to Jackson, who found a streaking Baxter for a one-handed jam and a five-point lead.
“Down by three, the turnover and dunk kind of broke our back,” Tulane coach Shawn Finney said.
Baxter stole the ball on the ensuing possession, resulting in a Will McDonald layup that put the Bulls ahead 66-59. Tulane would get no closer.
“Getting the 1-3-1 working again and being active and quick in it is very important,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “Because it gives us easy baskets.”
McDonald, a New Orleans native, fared much better against his hometown team at the Sun Dome than in the first meeting.
McDonald scored only six points and had six rebounds at Tulane Jan. 23 but responded with 18 points and seven boards Saturday.
“To me this was like the Cincinnati game when I said I had something to prove,” McDonald said. “Because I did kind of poorly in front of my family (at Tulane). I played to my potential tonight.”
Jackson also paced the Bulls with eight rebounds, and along with Baxter, was instrumental in forcing 22 Tulane turnovers, with the majority of those (12) coming from the Green Wave guards at the top of the 1-3-1. Kohn added 18 points, going 5-of-7 from behind the three-point arc.
- Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at email@example.com