USF has found a way to earn the advantage in its first two games this season, now it needs to learn how to hold them.
The Bulls let two significant leads slip away in a 60-57 loss to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) on Monday night before an announced crowd of 2,672 at the Sun Dome.
“We have to learn how to win, we have to learn how to continue to win,” USF coach Orlando Antigua said. “We do enough and we’ve shown enough that we can take the lead. Now, we have to continue to play, be smart and execute so we can finish off games.”
The Bulls (0-2) led 21-8 midway through the first half and by 11 in the second, but never managed to put the game out of reach.
The final minute was anyone’s game, but NJIT (1-1) scored the final five points on a pair of USF turnovers. The Bulls had two looks from beyond the arc with six seconds remaining to tie the game but couldn’t connect.
“We’ve got to get more mentally tough towards the end of the game,” said freshman guard Jahmal McMurray, who had a team-high 14 points.
Point guard Roddy Peters earned his first collegiate double-double (13 points, 10 assists) despite being limited by back spasms. Graduate transfer forward Angel Nunez added 11 points and five boards despite missing several minutes in the second half after landing hard on his right arm.
USF shot 39 percent from the floor (18 of 46), including 6 of 22 from 3-point range. NJIT finished 74 percent from the free-throw line.
“Our team defense has got to continue to get better,” Antigua said. “We don’t have a lockdown defender that we can say, ‘Alright go shut this guy down.’ But as a unit, as a team, if we’re all watching and caring about each other, understanding that we need each other on defense, then that’s a different story.”
NJIT guard Damon Lynn scored a game-high 27 points, including five 3-pointers. Guard Ky Howard recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
However, Peters is confident USF will show progress in Thursday’s game against George Washington University and moving forward.
“Next couple games, we’ll start to put it all together,” he said.