Thursday, December 14, 2017
Sports

USF suffers worst defeat of season against No. 12 SMU

TAMPA — Of all the issues USF second-year coach Orlando Antigua has been forced to address in this destitute season, playing time isn't one of them. These days, every Bull gets ample minutes.

Every healthy Bull, that is.

Seven minutes into Sunday's 92-58 loss to No. 12 SMU, Antigua found himself down to five available scholarship players when forward Bo Zeigler had to be assisted off the Sun Dome floor after taking a shot to the left knee.

By game's end, Bulls walk-ons Jake Bodway (26 minutes) and Tre' Bryant (six) had logged their lengthiest stints of the season, and two SMU walk-ons — including Courtland Sutton, an 800-yard receiver on the Mustangs football team — were eliciting whoops from their own bench with late baskets in their season debuts.

"We got an opportunity to play 'em, and then all of a sudden we're cheering when they made a shot. … I felt terrible in that regard," Hall of Fame SMU coach Larry Brown said.

"I felt good for our kids and the reward … then I realize we're winning and (Antigua) is so shorthanded as well. He had more guys in gray warmups than green-and-white uniforms. I didn't feel real good about that."

Antigua said he took no offense. Regardless, the beginning of this debacle — tying last season's 83-49 loss at SMU for the worst of the Antigua era — sat better with Brown than the end.

Before an announced crowd of 2,857, SMU (20-2, 9-2 AAC) made its first three 3-pointers en route to an 11-0 lead that grew to 22 by halftime.

The Mustangs finished 14-for-24 (58.3 percent) from long range, with guard Nic Moore (17 points) hitting 5 of 10; they shot 35-of-58 overall (60.3 percent). SMU's 14 3-pointers and 27 assists were season highs and the most by a Bulls foe since at least 2002 (as far back as school records go).

"They moved the ball, they shot the ball extremely well," said Antigua, who employed three total walk-ons Sunday. "That was a good team playing extremely well at the right time. That makes for a bad combination for us."

The severity of Zeigler's injury was unknown immediately after the game. Mercifully for Antigua, his team (5-20, 2-10) gets a week off before its next game, Sunday at Temple. "We've just got to stay level-headed and just put this game behind us now that it's over," said freshman Jahmal McMurray, who led the Bulls in scoring (18 points) for the fourth time in the past five games.

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