The USF men’s basketball team only turned the ball over seven times against UCF on Wednesday, but still came up short as they fell to the Knights 81-65.
Going into the second edition of the War on I-4, coach Brian Gregory harped on the fact that his team needed to take better care of the ball, as they turned it over a combined 26 times over their last two contests. While the Bulls (7-8, 3-6 AAC) were able to do that, they were unable to hit some of the quality shot attempts they generated.
“We talked about taking care of the basketball, that was going to be a big key for us,” Gregory said. “And now we take care of the basketball, we do a great job of that, but we had some open, quality looks at the rim, and [we were] just not able to put them in.
“Either right around the rim or some really good looks off of some offensive action, dribble pull-ups, some open threes, and when you’re not defending and rebounding well, you got to really be efficient offensively, and we just couldn’t make enough shots.”
Collectively, the Bulls shot 20-of-63 from the field and 5-of-22 from behind the three-point arc, whereas the Knights (7-11, 5-10 AAC) shot 26-of-51 overall and 9-of-21 from three-point range.
USF also lost the rebounding battle 40-34, partly due to the fact that junior center Michael Durr was not able to play in the game.
“We’re hoping [to get Durr back] for this weekend,” Gregory said. “One of the things we talked about after the long break was some soft tissue problems arising, just from not playing and getting back at it, we were very careful about not overdoing it or rushing guys back.
“But we’ve got a couple of guys that have had tendonitis, and now with Mike it just flared up to the point where he didn’t think he could go tonight.”
Despite the loss, Gregory found a silver lining in the play of redshirt junior forward Alexis Yetna.
“It was good to see Yetna play the way he played, I thought he did a really good job of doing what he’s capable of doing,” Gregory said. “We talked about the challenge for him missing a month in terms of getting back in the swing of things, so hopefully we’ll be able to build on that as well.”
Freshman guard Caleb Murphy’s play also stood out to Gregory, in spite of what the statline may imply.
“I think he got some good looks, defensively he was much better today than he was in game one,” Gregory said. “I think it’s hard to get assists if you’re shooting the ball the way we shot it at 31%, but I thought he made some good reads offensively. Out of the 16 shots, maybe two weren’t good looks or forced, he can make those shots so he needs to stay aggressive with that.
“You just got to compete and play your way out of this comeback, again I thought he did some good things for us today and it’s going to continue. I thought he played better today than he did on Sunday, and he defended better today than he did on Wednesday, so some progress was made there.”
As the season winds down and the Bulls enter the final stretch, Gregory hopes the team can refill their proverbial gas tanks.
“I was a little bit afraid of us being able to come back and really play a hard-fought game against Houston, and then having our gas tank empty on Sunday [against Tulane],” Gregory said. “And that kind of happened.
“I’m not sure if it was a full tank today, but we got to figure out a way to get it back up to that level.”
The next game on the schedule for USF is a Saturday matchup against SMU set to tip off at noon. The game will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast on 95.3/620 WDAE/iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.