TAMPA, Fla. — Two winless teams entered the USF Sun Dome on Wednesday night.
One left with a victory.
Sealed by a 10-0 wave, Tulane rode to a double-digit advantage in the second half and defeated the South Florida Bulls, 82-67. Sophomore Kain Harris led all scorers with a career-high 27 points.
“I’m disappointed,” said South Florida interim coach Murry Bartow. “I give Tulane a lot of credit.
“The 19 turnovers hurt us. Their shooting percentage hurt us — that triggered them getting to 82 points. We just weren’t sharp.”
Similar to many prior contests, South Florida fell behind early.
Spurred by star Cameron Reynolds, the Green Wave pulled ahead to a 14-4 lead. The Pearland, Texas, native scored five of his 14 in the opening six minutes.
Despite trailing by double-figures, the Bulls rushed back. Michael Bibby, the son of his namesake, swished back-to-back three-pointers pulling his team within a single possession, 16-13.
Tulane and South Florida, after the opening runs, traded baskets and scored furiously during the first half. Both squads shot at least 50% with the Bulls leading the way at 52.8%. Although South Florida possessed the higher shooting percentage, it was the Green Wave leading 40-38 going into halftime.
A Troy Holston layup at the 15:24-mark pushed the Bulls ahead, 45-44. However, the Green Wave soon came crashing to shore.
Starting with a Blake Paul layup, Tulane scored 10 consecutive points, turning a tied game into a double-digit lead.
“They made some plays,” said Bartow of South Florida’s scoring drought. “We didn’t play very well. I think it was a combination of some turnovers and some missed rotations, defensively.”
Once momentum shifted, South Florida never pulled closer than within eight. Tulane’s Kain Harris closed out his masterful 27-point, 3-rebound performance on a 5-1 individual run.
For the third consecutive game, Green Wave leading scorer Cameron Reynolds was in double-figures. The 6’7” forward is averaging 14 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2017. Ryan Smith and Blake Paul finished with 11 and 10 points respectively.
South Florida’s Geno Thorpe led his team with 16 points. The Penn State transfer struggled through a 3-of-14 shooting night. Ruben Guerrero and Luis Santos each scored 12 points. The latter grabbed 6 rebounds.
4-12 (1-3) Tulane will return home to face-off with SMU on Sunday. The Mustangs are 4-0 on the conference season.
6-9 (0-4) South Florida is the only team in the AAC to remain winless. The Bulls have failed to lose any conference contest by single digits. Their last victory came versus Delaware to close non-conference play.
“We got a lot of work to do. It’s a process,” Martow said. “We’re going to coach hard, learn from our mistakes, and try to have a good practice tomorrow, a good practice Friday, and try to play a better game on Saturday [at Memphis].”
– P. Wesner