Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. USF Bulls

Bulls men top East Carolina in OT for fifth consecutive win

Wednesday’s game at UCF suddenly has postseason implications
OCTAVIO JONES | Times East Carolina Pirates guard Shawn Williams (55) shot is blocked by USF Bulls forward Mayan Kiir (20) during the final minutes of the second half at the Yuengling Center in Tampa, Florida on Sunday, February 10, 2019.
Published Feb. 11
Updated Feb. 11

TAMPA ― USF fans who invested in the 2018-19 Bulls are getting some of the greatest value in program history.

The latest version possesses flair for both the historic and dramatic.

Down by 13 in the first half against American Athletic Conference doormat East Carolina, the Bulls rallied for a bizarre 72-68 overtime victory Sunday in the nightcap of a Yuengling Center doubleheader.

USF (17-6, 7-4 AAC) is on its first five-game winning streak in conference play since 1992, when it was in the Metro. The Bulls have won at least five in a row twice already this season, the first time the program has achieved such a feat since 1990-91.

“This was our vision the whole time,” said sophomore David Collins, who came a rebound shy of a double double (21 points, nine rebounds). “We knew we had people doubting us, and we just had to go out there and show everybody that we’re here.”

Collins and Co. head to Orlando on Wednesday for a showdown with UCF (17-5, 7-3) suddenly brimming with postseason implications.



But back to February madness.

The Bulls, who entered the weekend ranked 329th nationally in free-throw percentage (63.7 percent), won Sunday’s game at the line.

USF had no field goals in the final 11 minutes, but it went 6-for-8 from the line down the stretch in regulation, then hit 10 of 14 (71.4 percent) in overtime.

“When we play really well, we can compete with just about anybody. If we don’t play well, we’re not gonna beat anybody,” Bulls second-year coach Brian Gregory said.

“What we did (Sunday) was somewhere in the middle, and then we’ve got to figure out a way to win it. And that’s what our guys did. Our guys figured out a way to win that game.”

Initially, the Pirates (9-14, 2-9) flourished from an altogether different line.

In what would serve as a first-half harbinger, ECU hit its first four 3-pointers and had a 10-point lead less than four minutes into the game.

The Pirates cooled off only slightly, shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor (and hitting 6 of 8 3-pointers) en route to a 39-28 halftime lead. Guard Shawn Williams led the way, hitting all four of his 3s in the opening half.

ECU went 0-for-4 from long range the rest of the way. Meantime, the Bulls dominated the glass, finishing with a 46-22 rebound advantage.

But the Pirates never went away, scoring eight in a row late in the second half for a 60-56 lead. They still led by two when Bulls point guard Laquincy Rideau hit two free throws with 12.7 seconds remaining, tying the score at 62. On ECU’s ensuing possession, Williams’ off-balance jumper was blocked by 6-foot-9 freshman Mayan Kiir, forcing overtime.

“If Mayan isn’t on the ball, (Williams) gets the shot off,” Gregory said. “Mayan’s the only guy in the gym that could get a block on that shot.”

With three players fouled out, East Carolina went 2-for-8 from the floor in overtime. The Bulls never even attempted a field goal.

Turns out, they didn’t have to.

“Hard work pays off,” Collins said. “We shoot free throws every day, and we knew they were gonna fall eventually.”

USF WOMEN FALL: In the opener, freshman Elise Pinzan’s runner with a second remaining fell well short, capping 30 percent shooting (18-for-60) for USF in a 54-52 loss to Houston.

The Bulls (12-12, 3-7 AAC) led 44-39 early in the fourth quarter before the Cougars (12-11, 5-5) embarked on an 11-0 run, holding USF to two field goals in the final 9:23.

“Our two go-to guys are in street clothes,” said Bulls coach Jose Fernandez, who has lost four players (including three starters) to season-ending injuries. “We just struggle to make plays down the stretch where we can throw it to somebody that can go get us a basket.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. USF quarterback Jordan McCloud (12), scoring a touchdown during the second half against BYU, had to wear a glove on his injured throwing hand to help him grip the ball. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Additionally, the redshirt freshman continues nursing an injured shoulder
  2. USF quarterback Jordan McCloud (12) runs past BYU defensive lineman Zac Dawe (99) for a touchdown behind Bulls guard Demetris Harris during the second half of Saturday's 27-23 triumph at Raymond James Stadium. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times] OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Bulls’ resurgent offensive line has helped spark a two-game win streak
  3. Former USF quarterback Quinton Flowers was drafted by the XFL's Tampa Bay Vipers on Tuesday.
    The XFL club selects the record-setting Bulls quarterback as a running back.
  4. A Navy ROTC cadet matches his pushups with the USF-Navy score during a 2016 game at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A stout defense and sleek quarterback have sparked the Midshipmen’s resurgence.
  5. USF point guard LaQuincy Rideau (3) was named to the coaches preseason All-American Athletic Conference first team on Monday. JONES  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Bulls point guard Laquincy Rideau is a first-team pick on the preseason all-conference squad
  6. USF defensive lineman Kelvin Pinkney (96) celebrates the stop against BYU during the first half at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Suddenly, bowl eligibility doesn’t seem so far-fetched for the Bulls.
  7. BYU quarterback Baylor Romney (16) is stopped on fourth down by the USF defense during the second half Saturday at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Journal: The school also announces $2.5 million in athletic department donations, a good chunk of which will go toward an indoor practice facility.
  8. The Bulls come back from a 13-point deficit to win 27-23.
  9. USF running back Jordan Cronkrite (2) dives over BYU defensive back Tavita Gagnier (34) for the first down during the second half of the game at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    Martin Fennelly: The senior running back has his second straight big game to help lift the Bulls.
  10. USF tight end Mitchell Wilcox (89) celebrates after scoring a touchdown against BYU during the second quarter at Raymond James Stadium. OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    The Bulls come back from a 13-point deficit to win 27-23.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement