TAMPA, Fla. — Saturday afternoon, the USF Bulls turned in one of their best performances of the season.
Tuesday night, they had their worst performance.
In a contest plagued by missed layups and a combined 34 turnovers, Northern Illinois failed to play worse than USF and won, 59-48.
“You’re not going to be able to beat any Division I team when you give them that many opportunities,” said USF head coach Orlando Antigua of his team’s 21 turnovers. “If we take care of the ball, then we are in here having a different conversation.”
Neither team shot well; both had a shooting percentage under 38% on the night.
The Bulls led for the majority of the first half. Four of senior Bo Zeigler’s ten points spurred a 6-0 mini-run, giving USF a 22-14 lead with 5:43 remaining. The door was open for USF to move to a 6-4 record with a victory.
The Huskies had other plans.
“When you are on the road, the home team is going to throw some things at you, and we withstood their rally,” said Northern Illinois head coach Mark Montgomery. “I don’t think we played great in the first half, but we were only down two, and I knew we would play better in the second half.”
Northern Illinois, locking down on defense, forced four turnovers and scored eight points in the following three minutes to pull within one. Although the Huskies failed to steal the lead before halftime, they kept USF from possessing any more than a two-point lead.
Immediately out of the break, Northern Illinois jumped on the Bulls. Aaric Armstead swished a triple to begin the second half and take the lead. Moments later, back-to-back three-pointers from the junior gave the Huskies a nine-point advantage.
Although the Bulls rallied behind five straight from freshman Malik Fitts, no field goals in the final 6:35 drained any possibility of victory. A 47-45 score turned into a 59-48 win for visiting Northern Illinois.
Northern Illinois’ Levi Bradley led all scorers with 13 points. The total was one point shy from his career-high. The Wisconsin native also grabbed 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. Aaric Armstead and Marshawn Wilson had 11 points apiece.
No Bull surpassed 11 points on the evening. Bo Zeigler and Michael Bibby finished with 10 points apiece. The prior also had 8 rebounds while the latter posted 6 rebounds and 4 assists. Redshirt freshman Tulio Da Silva had a nine-point, eight-rebound performance. Fitts produced seven points and eight rebounds.
Following their biggest win of the season, 7-5 Northern Illinois will head to chilly DeKalb, Ill., for their non-conference finale against Illinois-Springfield on December 31.
5-5 South Florida finishes up their four-game homestand against Delaware on Thursday.
“We’ve got to learn quickly. So we can’t be in our feelings and emotions,” Antigua said. “We have one-day prep to get ready for a Delaware team that certainly is not going to be feeling sad for us.”