Bulls overcome offensive struggles to win three straight games

USF has won five out of its last six games after dropping its first five to begin the season. USF ATHLETICS PHOTO

USF men’s basketball won 59-55 against Dartmouth despite lackluster offensive production, marking their third straight win and fifth in their last six games.

The Bulls (5-6) have had a consistently fast-paced offense this season, scoring 70 points or more in four of their last five games before Friday’s contest at the Yuengling Center. However, that was not the case against the Big Green (4-9).

South Florida and Dartmouth started the game slowly, with neither team being able to create a decent amount of separation in the first 10 minutes.

As both teams were trading baskets during the first half, a three-pointer from sophomore guard Selton Miguel put the Bulls up 19-16.

While the Bulls ended the opening half shooting efficiently at 48% from the field, mistakes on their part derailed their attempts at pulling away as they finished with 11 fouls and six turnovers.

The Big Green kept the game competitive by knocking down all 12 of their free throw attempts and racking up 11 points off of turnovers. The Bulls still led 34-30 going into the break.

Coach Brian Gregory gave credit to Dartmouth for its ability to put them in tough positions at some points in the game.

“In the first half, we got in a ton of foul trouble early and we had different combinations out there trying to figure out what to execute on offense and our defensive coverage,” Gregory said. “To our guys’ credit, they fought through kind of a scrambled first half to still have the lead.”

Offensively, the Bulls slowed down drastically in comparison to their explosive start, only making one of their first six field goals to start the second half.

Despite the rough second half shooting, South Florida extended its lead through a slew of fastbreak points from freshman guard Ryan Conwell and junior guard Jamir Chaplin.

The Bulls scored 10 points off of their opponents’ turnovers in the second half, two of which came from sophomore forward Sam Hines Jr. who received an alley-oop pass from senior guard Tyler Harris.

However, Dartmouth remained within striking distance just in time for a run of its own. USF went ice cold from the field for over three minutes, allowing its opponent to go on a 7-0 run and closing the deficit to 54-53 with just under four minutes remaining in the game.

The Big Green did have a chance to take the lead down the stretch, but strong defensive stops and clutch free throws allowed the Bulls to close out the game with a win.

In Friday’s game, USF allowed 38 points in the paint and lost the rebounding battle 42-37.

Also hurting USF was their second half shooting. The Bulls shot 30% from the field and coughed up the rock six times in the final half, giving Dartmouth enough time to make a late comeback. Gregory was not thrilled with the offense’s performance down the stretch.

“There were probably four or five possessions when we were up nine or 10 points through the remainder of the game that were not quality offensive possessions and they did a good job of slowing up the tempo,” Gregory said.

“Especially in the second half when you’re playing in a game like that, four or five empty possessions that are self-inflicted can bite you, and [it] almost did.”

Men’s basketball plays against Hofstra on Monday at 7 p.m. in their second of three straight home games. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+ and BullsUnlimited.