After a nail-biting second half, USF secured an 84-78 win at the Yuengling Center on Saturday afternoon after almost allowing Memphis to come back from a 25-point deficit.
The Bulls (15-6, 5-4) had not given up a single field goal to the Tigers (13-9, 5-4) until a 3-pointer by Kyvon Davenport at the 10-minute mark of the first half. The story was different in the second half, as the Tigers fought back and shortened the scoring gap.
“I thought that Memphis is really good. Their ability to come back or extend, because of their pressure, is hard to simulate in practice,” coach Brian Gregory said. “Give them credit for digging down in that second half.”
The Bulls had a 25-point lead at halftime and held Memphis (13-9, 5-4) to only 14 percent from the field during the first half.
Memphis started to turn the game around when its offense got the ball rolling during the second half, specifically senior guard Jeremiah Martin who scored 41 points. He was held scoreless during the first half, going 0-of-3 from the field, but flipped the script during the second half.
Sophomore guard Justin Brown gave a nod to Martin and his ability to score after he put up 41 points.
“Players like that who are streaky and get hot fast, you just have to find a way to try and contain them,” Brown said. “He can make shots.”
The Bulls were not short offensively themselves, as three players scored in double-digits, contributing to their third consecutive conference win. Sophomore guard David Collins led the team with 20 points and added five rebounds.
Brown was active from 3-point range, shooting 5-of-8 and finishing with 19 points. After making his fifth 3-pointer, he set a new single-game season high from 3-point range. Junior point guard Laquincy Rideau added 15 points, five assists and two steals. He is one steal shy of breaking the USF single-season record.
6-foot-8-inch freshman Alexis Yetna broke the USF single-season record for rebounds by a freshman early in the game, setting the record at 206 and counting. He added 9 points, two blocks and two steals.
“We just wanted to make a statement and come out hard. I don't think they were ready and we got a jump on them, which obviously helped us win the game,” Collins said. “We can compete with anyone.”
This is the first time USF has won three conference games in a row and the first time it has reached five conference wins since 2012. The last time the Bulls had five or more wins in conference play, they made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
“They have a solid team, they play hard and they are well coached. On any given night they can beat anybody,” Memphis coach Penny Hardaway said. “I like their team, they have the opportunity to do some special stuff.”