TAMPA ― At this stage of USF’s development, style points aren’t a lofty priority. To its long-suffering fan base, even the ugly wins are exquisite.
Which brings us to Tuesday night’s 54-41 victory against Wichita State, arguably the Bulls' most gratifying eyesore to date.
On their worst shooting night of the season, the Bulls rendered the rebuilding Shockers absolutely frigid from the floor (28.3 percent) to snap a three-game skid before an announced crowd of 3,153. USF (13-6, 3-4) has won 13 games for the first time since 2012, when it reached the NCAA Tournament.
“It wasn’t pretty on offense,” Bulls coach Brian Gregory said. “But man, it was really good on defense.”
The Bulls held the Shockers, who returned only three scholarship players from last season’s 25-win NCAA Tournament club, to season-low scoring totals for a half (15) and game, taking a 30-15 lead at intermission.
Wichita State (8-10, 1-5) went 6-for-27 from the floor in the first 20 minutes, missing all eight of its 3-point tries and hitting only one jump shot. For the game, Shockers top scorer Markis McDuffie was held to 11 points, eight below his season average.
“We kept our poise and stayed disciplined on defense and just kept getting stops,” said point guard Laquincy Rideau, who had four of USF’s six steals. “That was it.”
Not that the Bulls could brag in the offensive efficiency department.
USF shot a season-low 30 percent (15-for-50) and went nearly eight minutes without a field goal midway through the second half. Wichita State exploited that drought with an 11-0 run, cutting the hosts' lead to 37-31 with 7:16 to play.
But timely 3-pointers by Justin Brown and Alexis Yetna in a two-minute span rebuilt USF’s lead to double digits. The Bulls' lead never fell below eight points the rest of the way as Wichita State went the final 3:46 without a field goal.
“Really proud of our guys and their effort and their attitude heading into this game, and the toughness and grit they showed," Gregory said. "As we move forward, as we build this program the way we all want it built up, that’s gonna be our cornerstones.”
Contact Joey Knight at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.