USF men’s basketball made a dramatic late comeback against North Carolina A&T on Monday, scoring the final 10 points in the 56-54 win, capped off by senior guard Javon Greene’s game-winning three-pointer.
“[There was] a lot going through my head [after the game-winning shot],” Greene said. “I can’t even tell you what I was thinking about. Getting back on defense was the last thing [on my mind], but we got the win.”
Over the final six minutes, the Bulls (2-1) went on a 17-3 run that ended in their first lead of the game with just 12 seconds left.
“Obviously, if you go [on a 17-3 run, that means] you have to get some stops in there,” coach Brian Gregory said. “We limited [North Carolina A&T] to just one [field goal]. Offensively we didn’t hold the ball, we were [focused on driving into the paint] and playing off each other.”
In what seemed like a continuation of their shooting woes against Georgia Southern, the Bulls struggled from the field against the Aggies (0-3) in the first half. At the break, USF hit just eight of their 35 attempts from the field for an abysmal 22% clip.
“[In the first half], they were more physical, they had more energy than us,” freshman guard Caleb Murphy said. “They were just doing way better than us, but we didn’t lay down. We stuck to the game plan, trusted in [coach’s] game plan.”
Shooting from beyond the arc was once again a thorn in USF’s side in the first period, shooting 1-of-13 from that range.
The script flipped following halftime. At 11-of-24 from the field and 4-of-9 from three, the team finally found it’s shooting stroke.
“We had to trust in each other [to start hitting shots],” Greene said. “I didn’t hit a three all game, but [Murphy] gave it to me [in the biggest moment].”
Murphy finished with a team-high 12 points, but was willing to defer to the open man in the closing seconds of the game. Greene’s game-winner was Murphy’s sixth assist of the night. He took care of the ball, turning it over just twice.
“I [get on Murphy] about the [three-to-one turnover ratio] every day,” Gregory said. “That’s exactly where we need him to be.
“We need him at five to eight assists per game. His decision-making today was much better, especially at the end. [Murphy and Greene] are starting to get a little better feel for each other, playing together and playing off each other.”
As the game reached its conclusion, the noise at the Yuengling Center built with each defensive stop and shot the Bulls made.
On the final possession, when a high-arching three-pointer by Aggie freshman Marcus Watson rolled in and out of the rim, the crowd’s roar drowned out the sound of the final buzzer.
“The first thing I said [to the guys] before we went out [for the second half] was ‘we are not losing again [at home,]’” Murphy said. “We used [the previous loss to Georgia Southern] to motivate us, even though we were down [to the Aggies] the whole game, but we pulled it out.
“It was an ugly win, but we’ll take it.”
The Bulls return to Amalie Arena for the first time since 2012 when they host the No. 22 Auburn Tigers on Friday at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and broadcast on iHeartRadio Bulls Unlimited.