For much of the 2017-18 season, USF’s trio of graduate transfers — Payton Banks, Stephan Jiggetts and Terrence Samuel — have accounted for nearly all of the Bulls’ offense.
On Wednesday night, however, it was freshman guards David Collins and Justin Brown who nearly rallied the Bulls back from a 20-point second half deficit. Despite their combined 34 points and seven rebounds, USF (8-15, 1-9) fell to Memphis (14-8, 5-4) 86-74 in front of 2,754 people at the Sundome.
“A key factor was our freshmen played really well during that stretch,” USF coach Brian Gregory said. “They were aggressive, they attacked the basket. You play hard, you play with intensity, good things happen. That was good to see.”
Brown scored 13 points, while Collins finished with a career high of 21 points, 10 of which came from the free-throw line — where he missed only one shot. Though it was his scoring that’s prevalent on the stat-sheet, Collins made numerous hustle plays throughout the game, including diving on a ball to force a jump-ball late in the first half.
“David was good at the line today, which is great because he was aggressive attacking the basket,” Gregory said. “The young guys were really able to get us back in that thing at the end.”
With 3:55 to play in the second half, Collins fouled out. After what was called a reach-in foul on Collins five minutes into the second half, Gregory called timeout and went straight to the referee for an explanation, visibly upset.
“I just have to play through stuff like that, don’t take the risk,” Collins said. “I need to play smarter because I can’t control the refs.”
On Tuesday, Gregory said in a press conference that the Bulls would have to slow down Memphis point guard Jeremiah Martin if they hoped to upset the Tigers. Martin finished the game with 25 points and nine assists.
“He dominated the game,” Gregory said. “Our matchups weren’t good. With David in foul trouble, that hurt us some, because he’s probably going to have to guard him there.”
When asked about his play, Collins was satisfied, but not happy with the team performance as a whole. The Bulls had 17 turnovers in the game and allowed Memphis to bring down 15 offensive rebounds.
“I’m the first person to tell David to keep attacking,” Banks, who had 16 points, said. “He’s the one person that can get into the lane at will on our team and if he can do that night-in-night-out, we (seniors) need to take care of what we have to. A lot us, including me, fell to the wayside tonight so we need to help him out more in that aspect.