Turnovers, poor first half costly in loss to Tulsa

USF coach Brian Gregory said the Bulls lacked “focus and energy” in committing 13 turnovers and scoring just 11 points in the first half against Tulsa. ORACLE FILE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

Despite outscoring and outshooting Tulsa (17-8, 9-3) in the second half, USF men’s basketball (11-14, 4-8) was unable to overcome a rough first half in its 56-48 loss (17-8, 9-3) on Saturday at the Yuengling Center.

Actually, “rough” would be an understatement, as the Bulls were historically bad the first 20 minutes. 

USF scored only 11 points in the first half, the lowest in a half in program history, one fewer than the previous record of 12 against Saint Louis in 2005. The Bulls shot 29 percent from the field and missed all six of their 3-point attempts.

Adding to the woes were turnovers. USF finished with more turnovers (18) than made field goals (17), with 13 in the first half alone.

“When you have 18 empty possessions, it’s going to be hard pressed to be successful,” coach Brian Gregory said. “Unfortunately we didn’t respond in terms of a key thing when you play Tulsa, and that’s taking care of the basketball.”

Self-inflicted wounds wound up being costly, according to junior guard Justin Brown.

“We were really hurting ourselves,” Brown said. “Silly turnovers, bad turnovers, taking bad shots. … We beat ourselves.”

After being down 25-11 at the half, the Bulls came out of the break stronger and more aggressive. After a couple of small runs, Brown’s first of two 3-pointers sparked a 10-0 Bulls run, cutting Tulsa’s lead down to four with 12:51 remaining. 

Brown finished with 10 points, one of three Bulls (junior guard David Collins with 14 and senior guard Laquincy Rideau with 10) in double figures. Like most of his teammates, a big portion came during that strong second half.

“First half, there wasn’t good energy — I feel like we didn’t play with the best energy,” Brown said. “In the second half, I feel like we started getting better on the offensive end — sharing the ball, taking better shots. When you take better shots, it opens up the whole offense and makes it easier for everybody to play.

“But that first half, we weren’t playing together, and we weren’t playing well. We didn’t have the same intensity.” 

As strong as the second half was, much like Wednesday night against Houston, the Bulls were not able to complete the comeback down the stretch after that rough first half.

“I was disappointed in myself, our staff, our team that we weren’t, in that first half, having that same focus and energy,” Gregory said. “It’s natural, very common, but to get this program where we all want it, you cannot be common. … It’s just something you’ve got to keep fighting for every single day.”