Second half comeback leads to Bulls victory over Spartans

Junior center Russel Tchewa shot 4-of-9 from the field on Tuesday. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

In Tuesday night’s preseason exhibition, a second-half surge fueled USF men’s basketball’s 66-61 victory over UT at the Yuengling Center.

Tampa came out aggressively, jumping to an 11-2 lead within the first three minutes and hitting back-to-back three-pointers. UT did most of its damage in the first half from beyond the arc, shooting just over 45% on 11 attempts.

Offensively, the Bulls were not able to match the Spartans’ production. USF finished the first half shooting under 30% and was unable to make any of its 12 first-half three-point attempts.

Going into the second half, the Bulls came out with a new resiliency, coach Brian Gregory said. Their revitalized defense created scoring opportunities on the offensive end by forcing turnovers.

“I was most pleased with just their attitude coming into the second half. You’re not going to make up a 13-point deficit in one possession,” Gregory said. “So you’re going to have to grind it out on the defensive end and have good efficiency on offense … we were much more efficient on the offensive end.”

The Bulls went on an 8-2 point run to get back into the game. At around the six-minute mark, a windmill dunk by fifth-year forward Keyshawn Bryant gave USF its first lead of the game, 50-49.

Along with their defense, what aided the Bulls in their comeback was getting to the free-throw line 12 times and knocking down 11 of the shots. This was a stark difference from splitting their two free-throw attempts in the first half.

Junior center Russel Tchewa led the way for the Bulls with a double-double putting up 16 points and 11 rebounds. All of his points came in the second half.

Another key performer was sophomore guard Selton Miguel, who finished with 14 points and helped spark the Bulls’ comeback early in the second half with back-to-back transition buckets.

Gregory noted how there were some aspects of the Bulls’ performance they will work on in their film breakdowns. However, he was also optimistic the win was a step in the right direction to set the tone for the season.

“It is on us,” Gregory said. “We need to go out there and play with the understanding that we play well, we play hard and we play with the energy we’re supposed to play with … so that we can have a very successful year.”

The Bulls tip off the regular season at the Yuengling Center against Southeast Missouri State on Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.