Unfinished plays and missed free throws were the reasons South Florida men’s basketball fell 68-64 to Temple on Wednesday night at the Yuengling Center.
The Bulls (7-8, 0-2 AAC) gave up 17 points compared to the Owls’ (9-7, 3-0 AAC) eight. Despite being tied 15 times throughout the game, USF missed its opportunities to take the lead due to the lack of ball protection.
Coach Brian Gregory said points from turnovers became highlighted due to the team not being able to guard the ball and fouling. He described this as the team’s “Achilles’ heel” this season.
“Unfortunately, the foul trouble hurt us…especially in the first half,” Gregory said. “We got a little bit out of rhythm because of foul trouble.”
After USF won the tip-off, both teams had a rocky start.
Junior center Russel Tchewa scored the first point on the board from a free throw after a three minute scoring drought.
The Bulls continued chasing points until fifth-year forward Keyshawn Bryant initiated a scoring drive with a dunk after a Temple turnover. Building off of that momentum, senior guard Serrel Smith Jr. shot from inside the paint and Tchewa landed a dunk to give USF its only lead of the period 15-13.
With USF failing to come back in front, the Owls managed to stay on top throughout the rest of the first half.
However, USF came back to wake up the crowd after halftime with a dunk by junior guard Jamir Chaplin and a layup by sophomore forward Sam Hines Jr. Tchewa and Smith collected eight points for the Bulls to help snag the lead back 38-35.
Temple was back in the game after a series of shots and three free throws, tying the score 40-40.
Fans wearing green and gold progressively grew louder as the Owls led 64-62 and the Bulls had 31 seconds to shoot a basket to take the game into overtime. In the battle for the last shot, there were three fouls called. Sophomore guard Selton Miguel’s personal foul and Bryant’s personal and offensive fouls gave Temple the chance to claim the victory 68-64 with four free throws.
While the scoreboard showed only a four point deficit, USF could have closed the margin if it didn’t miss eight free throws.
Gregory said the Bulls didn’t take advantage of open court situations, making it difficult for them to finish those plays.
“You can’t work that hard on and not make them pay on the other end,” Gregory said. “What ends up happening is that free throws and turnovers become highlighted because of not getting the defensive stops.”
South Florida faces Wichita State next week. The Shockers (7-6, 0-1 AAC) rank ninth nationally in field goal defense at 36.899%.
Giving the ball away is a trend Gregory has noticed in the team as they move through conference play. Guarding the ball will proceed as a skill they need to improve on before they face the Shockers.
“We’re not finishing plays at the rim as well as you need to,” Gregory said. “We’re getting into the paint, but we’re not getting as much out of it as we need to. And [when] we’re talking about a two-point game or a four-point game, those are critical plays.”
The Bulls will play Wichita State at the Yuengling Center on Sunday at 1 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+, 102.5 HD-2 and Bulls Unlimited.