With the return of suspended forward Chris Perry to the Bulls’ lineup Tuesday night, USF overpowered East Carolina University (ECU) in nearly every aspect of the game en route to a 69-52 win — its third conference road win of the season.
It was the first time since Perry’s suspension on Jan. 23 that USF had eight scholarship players available — USF was down to just five at one point. With a full complement of bodies, USF cruised to victory.
“I’m really, really happy for those kids because they continue to fight and they continue to battle,” coach Orlando Antigua said in a press release. “We keep preaching to them, ‘Just keep working. Keep doing the things every day. Let’s stick to our strengths and the results will take care of themselves.’”
USF led 15 minutes of the first half against the Pirates, with senior guard Nehemias Morillo hitting three of the Bulls’ first four 3-pointers. USF finished the night shooting 6-for-15, 40 percent, from long range.
Morillo finished the game with 18 points only behind freshman guard Jahmal McMurray, who eclipsed the 20-point mark for the sixth time this season with 21.
McMurray started the game shooting 5-for-8, helping USF to a 35-30 halftime lead.
USF stifled the Pirates’ offense in the second half, shutting them out for nearly six minutes while the Bulls put the game out of reach with a 12-0 run late in the game.
The Bulls’ size had much to do with that, outrebounding ECU 44-30. Sophomore center Jaleel Cousins posted his eighth double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“We needed to try to get the ball inside, and we needed to clean up rebounding offensively and defensively. I thought we did a great job of that,” Antigua said.
Sophomore forward Bo Zeigler also aided the defensive effort with four second-half blocks and two steals. The Pirates made only one of their final 12 shots.
“Coach put an emphasis on getting back in transition because they’re a good running team. I was just trying to be available,” Zeigler said.
As for Perry, the junior went 2-for-10 from the field with six points in 21 minutes.
Purely a momentum swing, with USF having little relevancy in the conference to this point, USF will look to string consecutive wins together for only the second time this season when Memphis travels to Tampa at 11 a.m. Saturday.