The mystique of the Pyramid is dead.
After going 0-7 in Memphis and losing its last seven games to the Tigers, the USF men’s basketball team ended its futility against the Tigers with a 75-74 victory in Memphis Saturday.
In spite of numerous injuries, the Bulls (9-6, 2-2 in Conference USA) put together their most rounded effort to record their first ever win in Memphis.
“We need to do everything by committee — score by committee, rebound by committee, defend by committee,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “One person can’t do it alone.”
The Bulls got all of their points from their five starters. Brian Swift and Gerrick Morris were the only two subs to log more than two minutes.
Without Marlyn Bryant in the lineup following his torn anterior cruciate ligament a week ago, Greenberg started a towering frontline of 6-foot-11 Will McDonald, 6-foot-9 Terrence Leather and 6-foot-8 Yusuf Baker.
Baker, a freshman, played seven minutes in a win Tuesday vs. Southern Miss, but logged 27 minutes against Memphis with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
Leather suffered through a poor shooting night (3-of-12 from the floor) to post nine points and eight rebounds, while McDonald tallied 16 points and nine rebounds.
“They were the only five to score, but Gerrick gave us absolutely magnificent minutes off the bench,” Greenberg said.
“He had four rebounds, and although he wasn’t scoring points, the number of shots he changed was invaluable to the win.”
With a slight edge on the glass (42-41), the Bulls erased a three-point halftime deficit, 33-30, with sharp second-half shooting, especially from their backcourt.
USF was 5-of-6 from three-point range, as Reggie Kohn and Jimmy Baxter each went 4-of-7 from three for the game. Inside the arc, USF stroked the ball at a 58.3 percent clip after the break.
“When you talk about Memphis, it’s not the environment. They have some pretty good players,” Greenberg said.
“I’m happy for our seniors and our freshmen. This is a program win.”
Considering the Bulls’ recent struggles against the Tigers, Greenberg said even his freshmen understood the importance of winning a game in the Pyramid.
“Judging on their reaction, they have a good feel for how significant a win this was, especially with the injuries and suspensions,” Greenberg said. “What we’re doing is reshaping our team.”
The face of the USF men’s basketball team keeps changing. Injuries will likely keep freshmen Sheldon Franklin (torn ACL) and Sam Barber (broken foot) out for the rest of the year, making them candidates for redshirt seasons.
Greenberg had hoped to slide freshman Raphael Toren into the absence in the backcourt created by Bryant’s injury, but according to a story in Friday’s Tampa Tribune, Toren was ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
USF will appeal the ruling, but it may be too late to salvage Toren’s season. Senior Greg Brittian’s appeal of his season-long suspension for academic fraud was denied in December.
In addition to their first-ever road win in Memphis, the victory was USF’s first of the 2002-03 season away from the Sun Dome, and it evened the Bulls’ mark in C-USA after dropping their first two conference games to UAB and Marquette.
“It’s a terrific win if it’s something we build on,” Greenberg said. “If it’s just our ninth win, then it’s just our ninth win. We’ve got something to build on and move on from here.”
Contact Anthony Gagliano at firstname.lastname@example.org