As senior Nehemias Morillo and Chris Perry sat down at the postgame press conference Tuesday night, their dejected demeanor told the story of their season.
Perry looked at the floor, eyes steadfast on the green table in front of him; Morillo shielded his mouth with his hand. They were at a loss for words after letting a one-point halftime lead slip through their fingers with little resistance.
When coach Orlando Antigua’s tense, 6-foot-7 frame walked swiftly into the room following his team’s 80-71 loss to Tulane, the mood quickly changed from somber to immensely frustrated.
“Today,” Antigua said with a long pause. “I wasn’t very pleasant with them … and a lot of it has to do with they have to own up to stuff as men. You’re out there in a category that is man-to-man where you have to be physical and it’s a matter of who wants it more. That’s what it came down to.
“That’s not a scheme; that’s not strategy. That’s owning up and being man to man.”
Holding a slim three-point lead with 2:45 left in the first half, USF gave up a trio of 3-pointers, narrowing their margin to a single point.
Coming out of the second half, the Bulls (3-15, 0-5) were outrebounded, outmuscled and outplayed. Tulane (8-10, 1-4) outgained USF 19-10 on the offensive glass, leading to 25 second-chance points. Tulane’s Dylan Osetkowski muscled his way to a 19-point, 14-rebound night that included 9 offensive boards.
“Quite frankly, we weren’t tough enough,” Antigua said. “I told those guys in the lock room, ‘You guys have to decide if you want to battle. There are some opportunities out there that you have to go get.’ (Tulane) got them and we didn’t. That’s unacceptable.”
USF – playing without 6-foot-8 forward Luis Santos – shot over 50 percent from the field tonight for the second consecutive game, but both resulted in a loss.
This sloppy performance, at least in Antigua’s eyes, brought about an emotional press conference from the second-year coach.
“They out-physicalled us,” Antigua said. “They were tougher than us; they wanted it more than we did, and that’s unacceptable, especially the way we’ve played in the past few games.
“So, I’m very disappointed.”
As for the players, Morillo said after the game that they simply didn’t put in the effort needed to pull out a win. And that came from someone who put up a career-high 20 points.
“We didn’t come prepared,” Morillo said before regaining his sunken position.
To Antigua, it’s not about flawless strategy or execution. Toughness is where he feels his team got outmatched tonight – a challenge he hopes resonates through the locker room.
“We need everybody to play,” he said. “We need everybody to contribute. We need everyone to battle. That’s our team and that’s how we need to play if we’re going to try to win. Not one guy or two guys, we need everybody.”
-Follow on Twitter @JacobHoagUSF