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USF men’s basketball falls short in rival matchup with UCF

Despite his 7-foot-6, 300-pound frame, USF was able to keep UCF freshman center Tacko Fall(24) in check. Fall finished the game with just two points and four turnovers. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

At times, they appear so close. But when the buzzer sounds, more often than not, USF finds itself on the losing end.

After USF’s 64-54 loss to in-state rival UCF at the Sun Dome Wednesday night the rhetoric was the same. But USF coach Orlando Antigua was adamant that his team was close to where he wanted them to be.

“We’re doing a lot of good things, they’re just not resulting in the win column,” Antigua said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

The Bulls (3-17, 0-7) got off to a fast start, going on an 11-3 run in the game’s first four minutes. But, that lead slowly dissipated, as the Bulls shot only 29.4 percent from the field in the first half.

Despite the Bulls’ poor shooting through the first 20 minutes, they only trailed the Knights by six as they went into halftime.

The Bulls came out of the half continuing their poor shooting effort, allowing UCF to extend the lead to as much as 15 with 12:44 remaining.

From there the Bulls began to fight back. A Chris Perry dunk with 3:18 remaining got the Bulls within four. 

“When you talk about the way we’re defending, how we’re rebounding the ball, and now we’re taking care of the ball a lot better,” Antigua said. 

But another mid-game collapse coupled with an inability to convert at the free throw line (4-11) yet again doomed the Bulls.

Free throws may have been the difference in the game, as UCF managed to shoot 21 more than USF, finishing 25-32 on the night.

“What can you say, we have to defend the free throw line a lot better,” Antigua said.

The Bulls did manage to contain 7-foot-6 freshman Tacko Fall, who came in the game 32nd in the country in blocked shots (2.1 per game). The big man finished the game with only five points and a single block in 19 minutes.

“We just had to be physical, we had to move him out of the paint because if he catches it, he’s just going to dunk on you, ” said forward Chris Perry, who had the daunting task of defending the Senegalese giant. 

“He didn’t kill us, so I think that worked (on him).”

USF will travel to Houston (10-7, 4-2) this week to face the Cougars on Saturday at 4 p.m.