Playing without its most experienced player, the USF men’s basketball team was able to pull off the upset in Houston, ending a nine-game skid.
The school announced Friday that junior forward Chris Perry was suspended for violating team rules. USF (4-17, 1-7) was still able to knock off Houston (13-6, 3-4) 71-62 on its own court Saturday.
“We make no excuses for who’s here and who’s not here,” coach Orlando Antigua said in a press release. “We have a responsibility to compete, play and fight for one another. All we need is five guys on the court.”
Perry’s absence left USF with only nine dressed players — six on scholarship — one of whom, freshman guard Jahmal McMurray, rattled off a career-high 30 points.
The Kansas native, who played all 40 minutes, went 3-for-3 from long range with 24 of his points coming in the second half in front of an announced crowd of 3,724.
“His teammates understood that they needed to get him the ball because he was getting to the basket and getting to the free throw line,” Antigua said. “He was making plays for guys early on and then he had the hot hand. They got him the ball in the right places.”
The Bulls built a commanding 16-point lead with 14:13 remaining in the game, but the Cougars battled back to pull within four with just under six minutes to play.
From there, McMurray outscored Houston 12-10 to close out the game and give USF its first conference win of the season.
USF was aided by a stout defensive effort that stymied the cougar offense. While holding Houston to just 17.4 percent (4-for-23) from long range, the Bulls kept the AAC’s leading scorer, Rob Gray Jr. from completing a shot from the field. Gray averaged 17.6 points per game prior to Saturday, but scored only one point against USF.
This was only Houston’s second loss at home this season (10-2).
“I’m so happy for these kids, for the resilience that they continue to show,” Antigua said. “Our jobs as coaches are to keep working. The results will happen if we compete for 40 minutes.
“I thought we grew lot today as a team. We made a bunch of mistakes, but we didn’t let one mistake lead to another. The guys were encouraging one another. They were pushing each other.”
No timetable was given for Perry’s return, meaning the Bulls will continue to rely on McMurray and the rest of their young roster. USF plays five of its next seven games on the road beginning with Tulane on Wednesday at 8 p.m. on ESPN3.
—Follow on Twitter @JacobHoagUSF