During USF men’s basketball’s (5-3, 1-1) loss against Wichita State (4-2, 2-0) Tuesday night, the Bulls put in one of the most uneven performances in recent memory. Despite leading by as much as 13 in the first half, an ugly second half on both sides of the ball ultimately led to the 82-77 overtime loss.
USF had all of its qualities on display tonight. The good ones, the bad ones and the ones that made it extremely frustrating to watch the team play.
Early on, the Bulls seemed like the far superior team with a gritty defense. Wichita State, normally a good three-point shooting team, were held to just 10% from beyond the arc and 27% from the field overall. The Shockers were also forced into seven turnovers which the Bulls took advantage of, scoring nine points off of those turnovers.
Momentum started to shift toward the end of the first half. However, as the Bulls saw their 13-point lead dwindle to single digits, it turned out to be costly later on.
“In the second part of the first half, when we were up 10, 11, 12 [points], we weren’t able to extend the lead, they were able to cut into it,” coach Brian Gregory said.
The second half turned out to be the polar opposite of its predecessor as the team struggled to contain Wichita State’s offense that finally found its stroke. Three-point shooting became a strength for the Shockers as they hit 45% from deep in the second half.
USF played its own role in the Shockers’ second half resurgence by giving them easy baskets in transition. The Bulls turned the ball over eight times in the final 20 minutes, finishing with 18 in total of which, according to Gregory, was what really hurt the team.
“Our defense wasn’t as good in the second half,” Gregory said. “But our defense and our rebounding were not the reasons why we weren’t able to complete this game. So many times offensively when you turn the ball over it puts too much pressure on your defense and that’s kind of what happened tonight.”
Despite the turnovers and, at times, lack of offensive production during the second half, Gregory and his team showed their resiliency by fighting back from the seemingly impossible circumstances.
Senior guard David Collins, who struggled for much of the game, led a furious comeback in the final seconds of the game. With 4.9 seconds left, Collins hit a three-pointer while getting fouled to cut the Shockers to one after he hit the free throw.
After a Wichita player missed a potential game ending free throw, Collins hoisted up a last-second three on which he was fouled. He ultimately made 2-of-3 free throws to send the game to overtime.
“I just knew I had to get the three,” Collins said. “And I just felt [the Wichita State player] pushing me in the back, so I just stopped and shot it. I think the ref had to call it, it was obvious.”
The Bulls were ultimately outscored 12-7 in overtime after they shot an ice cold 2-11 from the field during the final period.
Collins ended up leading the Bulls with 17 points and was joined in double digits by freshman guard Caleb Murphy (14) and senior guard Justin Brown (12). In the end, all of them were outdone by Wichita’s sophomore guard Tyson Etienne who finished with a game-high 25 points after being contained for much of the first half.
Looking ahead, the Bulls will have a week break before traveling to Memphis to take on the Tigers Dec. 29. Gregory hopes he’ll be able to see some of his players make improvements in order to impact future games.
“We got some guys that need to take a big jump during this break and get ready for the next 18 games in this league,” Gregory said.