TAMPA ― Only nine days removed from low-post star Alexis Yetna’s season-ending knee injury, USF entered Sunday afternoon’s contest against Boston College still scurrying to develop its rhythm, range and rotations.
As a result, a potential statement game regressed into a sloppy one.
On a day when they forced 28 turnovers, the Bulls (1-1) committed 21 of their own, struggled to hit a shot anywhere from the floor, and were out of sorts defensively. The fallout was a 74-60 loss before an announced Yuengling Center crowd of 3,191.
“If you told me we were gonna force 28 turnovers, you’d think you’re gonna win the game,” said coach Brian Gregory, who watched BC go 50 percent (25-for-50) from the floor as the Bulls shot 36.1 percent (22-for-61).
“But you can’t force 28 turnovers at the expense of giving up 58 percent from the field (10-for-17) in the second half. So it’s either you get a steal, or you give up a layup or an open (3-pointer). At this level against a team like that, you’re just not gonna win.”
With Yetna ― who had surgery earlier in the weekend ― watching from a wheelchair, the Bulls jumped out to a 26-17 lead but managed only three field goals in the final 7:16 of the first half as the Eagles (2-0) went on a 26-6 run in that span.
Exactly one-third of USF’s 21 turnovers occurred in that stretch. The Eagles went 8-for-15 from the floor during the surge, ending with 6-foot-11 senior Nick Popovic’s baseline 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the guests a 43-32 lead.
“We kept playing out of control,” said USF junior guard David Collins, who had a team-best 19 points and seven of USF’s 18 steals. “And that’s what happens.”
Worsening matters for USF were a pair of fouls whistled against point guard Laquincy Rideau within a 25-second span early in the second half. Rideau (14 points, six turnovers), whose club was whistled for 23 fouls to BC’s 15, fouled out with four minutes to play.
Meantime, Eagles 6-foot-8, 220-pound junior Steffon Mitchell exploited Yetna’s absence with a monstrous effort down low (13 rebounds, four blocks, six assists, one turnover).
“We’ve got a long way to go in terms of staying within ourselves and playing the way we’re supposed to play, both offensively and defensively,” Gregory said. “We got out of sorts today on both ends of the court.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.