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Bulls struggle offensively in loss to Georgia Southern

Freshman guard Caleb Murphy scored six points and pulled down two rebounds in USF’s loss to Georgia Southern on Saturday. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

Points were at a premium and the jump shots weren’t falling for USF men’s basketball in a 53-41 loss to Georgia Southern on Saturday.

“[Georgia Southern played] a very physical game and we did not match their physicality on both offense and defense,” coach Brian Gregory said. “I thought the physicality of the game impacted our ability to shoot and make open shots.”

At just 26% shooting from the field, to say the Bulls (1-1) never found their groove would be quite the understatement.

At one point in the second half, the team missed 18 consecutive field-goal attempts over a 13-minute stretch.

“Everybody on the bench was positive, [encouraging their teammates to] keep shooting the ball,” Gregory said. “I thought maybe there was a time or two where we could have got to a second drive and kick instead of taking the first open shot. But again, you want the guys to play with that confidence.”

One player on USF who did have a good game shooting the ball was freshman guard DJ Patrick. Patrick led the team with 18 points, but 15 came in a five-minute stretch where he sank five three-point shots. That was the only time the Bulls’ offense came close to finding a rhythm.

“When you drive the ball, in your offensive flow, if you’re standing you’re easy to guard,” Gregory said. “[Patrick] doesn’t stand, he moves, he cuts along the baseline, he’ll chase after the ball when he sees an open area. He does a good job of coming off screens and different things like that. And he’s always ready to shoot. I thought he did a very good job for us.”

In fact, if it weren’t for Patrick’s 6-of-13 shooting from downtown, the Bulls would have finished a miserable 1-of-18 from three-point range.

“We hit the first [three-pointer] to open the game, and then [besides Patrick] we missed the rest,” Gregory said. “[We’ve] got to get back in the gym, got to get [our] shots up.”

The final score was not indicative of the game’s balance. Despite its poor shooting, USF imposed its will on the offensive glass, grabbing 18 rebounds to just 16 defensive boards. However, the ensuing possessions only resulted in 11 second-chance points.

“We just have to convert [those second-chance opportunities],” Patrick said. “We’ve got to be a little bit tougher and hit shots. [Ultimately], we just couldn’t hit shots today.”

The Bulls’ defense also forced 18 turnovers which provided an opportunity to chip away at the deficit they fell into before halftime, but they converted few into buckets with just 10 points off turnovers the entire game.

Gregory credited Georgia Southern’s physical defense for making it difficult for the Bulls’ frontcourt players to impact the scoreline. USF scored just four points in the paint, a far cry from the 50 points in the paint in their previous game against Bethune-Cookman.

“[Georgia Southern has great size inside], they’re six-foot-five or bigger at every spot,” he said. “They do a good job of protecting the rim, swarming the paint. We didn’t do a good enough job of driving and kicking and getting a second drive. [We took lots of open shots] on the first drive and unfortunately we just didn’t make them.”

Gregory said he and his staff will get back in the film room immediately, wasting no time to identify issues and points of improvement.

“We’ll jump on it right away. We’ll digest this game,” he said. “The biggest thing right now that we’ve got to do is keep addressing the issues that surfaced during practice and during games.”

The Bulls will be back in action Monday night when they host North Carolina A&T. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.