Second-half surge pushes Bulls past Pirates

Senior guard David Collins led the team in scoring with 16 points in the win over East Carolina. ORACLE PHOTO/BRIAN HATTAB

The Bulls (7-5, 3-3) are back to .500 in the conference after sinking the East Carolina Pirates (7-3, 1-3) 69-63 in their Saturday afternoon matchup.

The Pirates led 26-25 going into the half, but the Bulls caught fire from deep as they sunk 60% of their three-point attempts in the second period.

Headlining that prolific shooting performance was senior guard Justin Brown who hit three threes on three consecutive possessions early in the second half. This comes after Brown shot 0 for 10 against Tulsa in a loss on Wednesday.

“J.B. [Justin Brown], he’s a good shooter, he’s one of the best that [has] ever played in South Florida history,” coach Brian Gregory said. “I told him in the Tulsa game he’s going to make some big shots for us, it just didn’t happen [against Tulsa], but today it did.

“He’s helped us in so many ways. Defensively he did a great job on [Brandon] Suggs who’s a really good player. Got him in some foul trouble, and cut him out, kept him off the offensive glass, so he had a really good all-around game.”

Senior David Collins also had a bounce-back game after he too struggled versus Tulsa. Collins was held scoreless and took just one shot against the Golden Hurricane.

Saturday, however, the 6-foot-4-inch guard dropped 14 second-half points after struggling early and air-balling his first two shot attempts.

“Those two first shots, those were really good looks, really good shots,” Gregory said. “But he hasn’t shot many of those this year like that. He hasn’t come out aggressively shooting those shots and we need that, we need that.

“I thought the shots he made in the second half were exactly the shots we’re looking for him to take. Now he made some bad decisions down the stretch, that’s something we need to work on and get better at. But he’s a go-to guy for us and we need him and we [have] got to count on him, and his biggest thing is just the consistency of his play.”

Gregory also noted that freshman guard Caleb Murphy is dealing with a hip pointer, which limited what he could do.

“Heading into the game we weren’t sure if Caleb [Murphy] was going to be able to play,” Gregory said. “He’s got a little bit of a hip pointer. I thought you saw it affected him, it affected him on his lateral quickness.”

Murphy’s limited production allowed for players like Xavier Castaneda to come in and make a difference as he scored six points and pulled in four rebounds.

Sophomore transfer Russell Tchewa however was someone that Gregory really pointed out.

“Maybe the unsung hero, Russell [Tchewa] was really good. [I] challenged him after the last game, he has to rebound better for us,” Gregory said. “He has to rebound better, and to come out and get the five rebounds in the 12 minutes was great, he’s got a good feel for us defensively, but you still got to remember he’s like a freshman for us, everything is new.”

Next up for the Bulls is a Jan. 14 matchup versus the No. 11 ranked Houston Cougars which is set to tip off at 7 p.m.