Short by 11 minutes
The USF men’s basketball team was beating Memphis for about 29 minutes Saturday.
However, college basketball games last 40 minutes, and the Bulls’ hopes of defeating the Tigers for the second time this season were dashed in a 73-66 loss.
“I’m disappointed,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “I expected to win that game. I thought we did enough good things to win that game.
“We got the lead, and the next thing you have to do is get stops. And to get stops, you have to contest shots.”
The Bulls took their first lead of the game as the clock ran down to 11:10 after junior Jimmy Baxter completed a four-point play.
Baxter, who scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds, didn’t let up, hitting a three-pointer on the next possession to give the Bulls a 45-39 advantage.
Baxter missed a three on the next series, and then Memphis’ Earl Barron hit a pair of free throws.
Memphis, which had trouble with the Bulls’ 3-2 and 1-2-2 zone defenses, came back behind the point guard play of Antonio Burks.
The 6-foot junior had 11 points and eight assists while playing a team-high 36 minutes.
“He’s a terrific player,” Greenberg said. “With Burks in there, you know you’ve got to set your defense. (He) limits the number of guys you can send to the offensive glass. (He) affects a little bit of how you play the zone on the high screen.”
Burks missed the last meeting between the two teams on Jan. 18. USF won the game at the Pyramid, 75-74.
“I feel like the game they beat us at the Pyramid, I was the reason why we lost because we didn’t have good guard play,” Burks said. “Tonight, I came in and ran my team.”
Although USF’s zone defense contained the Tigers shooting to 31.8 percent, the Bulls showed a hole in their defense when Memphis’ John Grice made a three-point basket to tie the score at 50.
Grice only shot 2-of-10 from behind the arc and 31 percent from the field.
“I saw that some of my other shots were going to the right, so I made sure my hand was wide open,” Grice said. “I made sure when it left that I had a good rotation and a good follow-through.”
The Tigers took their final lead when Anthony Rice made two consecutive three-pointers to put them ahead 56-50.
“I feel it was just a miscommunication,” Baxter said. “That was our emphasis in shoot-around the past couple of days, knowing where Grice was and where he was playing on the floor.
“Not locating John Grice and Rice was our mistake.”
The Tigers used the three-pointers by Grice and Rice to build their lead and confidence.
“They came down, and they hit some really important threes,” senior Will McDonald said. “Those three-pointers got them back in the game. It got them a good lead, and they started feeling real comfortable about themselves.”
Grice scored 16 points and had three steals and 11 rebounds in 18 minutes.As Memphis built on its run, the Bulls could not hit their free throws, shooting 15-of-24.
“That one little stretch, we lost our focus and didn’t contest shots, and we paid for it,” Greenberg said. “You have to make free throws. We made two more field goals than them. They’re 23-of-27 from the line, and we’re 15-of-24. There’s the game.
“It’s plain and simple. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure it out.”Despite USF’s ability to shoot a higher percentage than Memphis and stalemate it on the boards, the Bulls were not able to capitalize.
They committed twice as many turnovers, giving the ball away 18 times.
“I love it,” Memphis coach John Calipari said. “Absolutely, emphatically love winning games when you shoot 31 percent because that means you guarded, didn’t turn the ball over and made your free throws because there’s no other way to win the game.”
The Bulls were able to get the ball to their No. 1 option, as McDonald scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
“We got the ball in the paint all night,” Greenberg said. “We got the ball where we needed to get the ball to. We got the ball in the hands of the people we wanted to.”
McDonald, the 6-foot-11 senior center, had a good game despite playing with a broken thumb.
“I think he’s pretty good with the broken thumb,” Calipari said. “He may want to stay that way. I don’t think he did that much against us without the broken thumb. He should maybe break his other thumb.”
USF also got quality play from sophomore guard Brian Swift, who played 30 minutes and contributed 15 points, five assists and three rebounds.
“I thought Swift played well today,” Calipari said. “You look at his numbers — five assists, no turnovers, 15 points, 2-for-2 from the foul line — and he’s 5-foot-4 and he had three rebounds. He played a great ballgame. That’s his best game he played against us.”
USF was knocked out of contention for the National Division title and lost its second home game of the season, dropping to 12-2 at the Sun Dome.
“We left about 15 to 24 points on the court (Saturday),” Greenberg said. “This is the third game that we held a team to a horrific shooting night (by) defending really effectively. Imagine if we guarded those guys on those three shots.
“We didn’t find a way to win, and that’s a little discouraging.”