USF men’s basketball begins season with 64-61 heartbreaker

Senior forward and South Carolina transfer Keyshawn Bryant is just eight points shy of 1,000 collegiate career points. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

South Florida men’s basketball kicked off their home opener against Southeast Missouri in a 64-61 loss Monday night at the Yuengling Center.

Coach Brian Gregory noted many of the struggles the Bulls faced in their first match, which were needed to translate their performance into a win.

“Couple areas that we need to get better at, [we] got to be more physical on the glass. Got to be able to defend without falling. Got to be better on the free throw line, which we are but we did not shoot well from the line,” Gregory said.

“Today when we got open shots, guys that are capable of making them weren’t making them, both layups and open perimeter jump shots.”

Against the Redhawks (1-0), the Bulls (0-1) kicked off the first half neck-and-neck, with SEMO leading in three-pointers. However, USF dominated in the majority of categories including two-pointers, layups and dunks. With both teams shooting one after the other, they concluded the half tied 30-30.

Dominating for the first 20 minutes for USF was junior guard Jamir Chaplin, who contributed six points and five rebounds.

The trend continued through most of the second half, with both teams fighting to get ahead but staying even.

It wasn’t until senior forward Keyshawn Bryant began to dominate on the three-point line that the Redhawks felt worrisome. Before USF called its second timeout, Bryant put 10 points on the board with three successful three-pointers.

Bryant finished the game with 19 points to his name, 15 of which came from his second half hot streak.

SEMO continued to press against USF shortly after Bryant’s performance, leading the game 58-54 before the three-minute mark. In the final minute of the match, tensions were high after the Redhawks’ successful free throw attempts and a three-pointer with 29 seconds left on the clock.

Although the Bulls were unable to start their season on a high note, their next opponent is what strikes as their biggest concern. Next on USF’s schedule is SEC powerhouse No. 15 Auburn, which kicked off its season Monday night as well, commanding George Mason 70-52 at home.

For Gregory, the mixture of new faces and smoothing out the wrinkles will be the main point of interest before facing one of their tougher opponents for the 2022 campaign.

“[Have to] learn from this, gotta bounce back. Obviously a tough one on Friday, but at the same time it’s a team that’s going to, I believe, going to keep getting better and growing as they start figuring some stuff out together,” Gregory said.

“Obviously there’s three new guys in the starting lineup but we got some good basketball from two guys, but it’s gonna be tough to win when your veterans don’t play as well as they are capable.”

The Bulls’ next home game is Monday against Stetson at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and Bulls Unlimited.