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USF defeats East Carolina in basketball

 
USF guard Bo Zeigler dunks during the second half, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds and earning praise from coach Orlando Antigua.
USF guard Bo Zeigler dunks during the second half, finishing with nine points and eight rebounds and earning praise from coach Orlando Antigua.
Published Jan. 4, 2015

TAMPA — The long-range funk that has besieged USF most of the season won't seem to go away. But Saturday night, neither would the Bulls.

Every miss — USF hit 3 of 19 3-pointers — was offset with mettle, every clang trumped by a lunge for a loose ball. Interior swagger compensated for exterior deficiencies.

The result was a 58-50 victory against East Carolina (7-8, 0-2 American Athletic Conference) before a Sun Dome crowd of 3,184, giving the Bulls (7-8, 1-1) a bit of momentum entering Tuesday's home game against reigning national champion Connecticut.

"We needed to play that way," said coach Orlando Antigua, who openly questioned his club's competitive spirit in the wake of Wednesday's 34-point loss at SMU. "We needed to try to win a game that way because that's gonna have to be kind of our m.o., that's how we're gonna have to be in games."

On a night when the Bulls' collective energy was palpable, so was their low-post assertiveness. USF had a 32-18 scoring advantage in the paint and an 18-8 edge in second-chance baskets.

"They go 3-of-19 from (3-point range), but it was the second- and third-shot opportunities that hurt us," ECU coach Jeff Lebo said. "Everything was around the rim, but we don't have a shot blocker in there, so once they got it up to the rim that close, they put 'em in."

Trailing 44-42 after 6-foot-3 Pirates guard B.J. Tyson's alley-oop dunk, the Bulls answered with a 12-0 run, commencing with power forward Chris Perry's layup and ending on Corey Allen's basket on a baseline drive.

In between, redshirt freshman Bo Zeigler scored seven consecutive points, including an alley-oop dunk of his own off an Anthony Collins feed ignited by a Perry blocked shot on the other end.

"He was huge, especially down the stretch," Antigua said.

Zeigler finished with nine points, eight rebounds, a block and a steal off the bench. Freshman Ruben Guerrero added 13 points, seven boards and three of the Bulls' eight blocked shots.

"We've been going pretty hard in practice the last couple of days and we just wanted to make it turn over into the game," Zeigler said. "Bring competitiveness and energy early so we'd give ourselves a chance to win."

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