The USF men’s basketball team showed Houston things Saturday that the Cougars didn’t get to see in the teams’ last meeting Jan. 29.
A new full-court press, Reggie Kohn’s superb play, USF’s ability to shoot free throws and a few highlight plays gave the Bulls a 62-47 victory at the Sun Dome.
USF, (13-9) improved to 12-1 at the Sun Dome. The Bulls are 1-8 on the road.
During the last meeting, a 59-57 Houston win, Kohn had his worst offensive game of the season, shooting 0-for-13 from the field, including 0-for-7 from the three-point line.
“I think he really felt bad after the game at Houston,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “Reggie takes winning personally. He really does. He’s a basketball kid. Winning is important to him.
“Playing to win and finding ways to help his team win is important to him.”
USF’s senior point guard had game-highs Saturday, scoring 17 points, handing out seven assists and collecting six steals.
“Reggie is a courageous player,” Houston coach Ray McCallum said. “If you take him off this team, it is a different story. He is a winner. He stepped up and made big shots when the shot clock was going down.
“We know what he can do. He’s a very unselfish player, too. It was just a tremendous line by him.”
Kohn was 6-for-16, shooting 5-for-11 from three-point range, including a shot late in the second half as the shot clock was winding down, that left Kohn with a wide-mouthed grin.
“It was just because I made one,” Kohn said. “I thought I missed my last few. I thought I had a lot of good looks, and a lot I didn’t make. Then I finally knocked one down late. I thought I had to shoot that one. There were four or five seconds left on the shot clock, and I had to shoot it, and luckily, I made that one.”
Along with Kohn’s solid improvement from the last contest against the Cougars, USF showed more than its 2-for-11 free throw shooting performance.
The Bulls made 7-of-9, including senior center Will McDonald’s 6-for-6.
“I got a new routine,” McDonald said. “I started out the first few games, and then I went on a slump. Once I took the tape off, then I had to readjust because the tape was kind of fat, so I had to readjust my shot.”
McDonald made 2-of-6 in the last meeting, and significantly improved his shooting from the first matchup to the next.
“Will was 6-for-6, but he still has to get tough and power balls up so he can get some three-point plays,” Greenberg said. “Some nights you make it, some nights you don’t.”
McDonald scored 16 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out four assists.
The Bulls also improved on the defensive end of the court, holding Houston to its lowest point total of the season.
USF showed the Cougars something new, extending its 3-2 zone defense to a three-quarter court press.
“That was just because we wanted to get the game (going) a little faster,” Greenberg said. “We wanted to just try it, so we didn’t have to stand and guard them for so long. Make them use the clock and maybe get a steal or two.”
The Bulls got three steals in a row with the three-quarter zone and totaled 12 steals for the game.
The Bulls’ 12-3 advantage in steals allowed USF to score 19 points off turnovers, compared to zero by Houston.
Some of the Bulls’ points resulted in crowd-pleasing scores, with Jimmy Baxter displaying his high-jump ability.
“The dunks are open,” McDonald said. “Our guys on our team are so athletic, and that’s the way they want to finish it.”
Baxter had two spectacular dunks, going out on a fast break and receiving an alley-oop pass from sophomore guard Brian Swift on one, and coming in for a soaring rebound, before flushing a one-handed stuff that brought the 3,691 in attendance at the Sun Dome to their feet.
“Yeah, that was pretty good,” Greenberg said. “I don’t know if it was that one or the one Swift threw to the top of the Sun Dome, and then he still caught it and dunked it. That thing was in the air for about 10 minutes.”
The Bulls travel to New Orleans on Tuesday to face Tulane.