TAMPA, Fla. — The South Florida Bulls were due for a win, as good things have been few and far between as of late for the team in terms of results.
Coming into Thursday night’s game with the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats, the Bulls had lost four straight games. Three of those losses were by double figures, and two were on their home floor. The Bulls were looking to put an end to their losing streak, and get back on the right track as the calendar year is slowly winding down.
Over the years, they’ve had the Wildcats’ number, holding a 14-1 edge in the all-time series between the two schools. Last year, the Bulls overcame a 19-point deficit against Bethune-Cookman, and ultimately picked up a six point win in overtime. They were looking for their fourth straight win over the Wildcats, while Bethune-Cookman was looking for their second straight win overall.
Behind 20 points and seven assists from graduate transfer Stephan Jiggetts, South Florida pulled away in the second half for the 83-63 win on Thursday night, snapping their four-game losing streak in the process.
The 20 points from Jiggetts were a game high, and it was his second 20+ point performance in the last four games. Jiggetts also passed the 1,000 point mark for his career in the win.
Five players in total scored in double figures for South Florida, including Payton Banks, who had 16 points and five steals off the bench. Tulio Da Silva posted 15 points, which was more than his previous four games combined (13).
For the Wildcats, guard Isaiah Bailey led the way, scoring a team-high 19 points to go along with four assists. Houston Smith, who was starting in place of Brandon Tabb for the second straight game, added 12 points and three rebounds in the loss.
At the break, the Bulls held a slim 36-35 lead over the visiting Wildcats. To open the second half, both teams traded baskets before South Florida went on a 9-0 run to stretch their lead to 13, at 61-48.
Payton Banks completed a three-point play with just over 11 minutes to play in the game to cap off the run.
Bailey put an end to the Bulls’ run with a three pointer just before the halfway point of the second frame, cutting the deficit to 10 in the process. That was as close as Bethune-Cookman would get the rest of the way, as South Florida pulled away down the stretch for the 20-point win, 83-63.
In the second half, the Wildcats were unable to match the hot shooting of South Florida. Bethune-Cookman was just 10-of-30 from the floor in the second frame, while the Bulls shot 57% over the final 20 minutes.
The Bulls also out-rebounded the Wildcats, who came into the game as one of the country’s top rebounding teams. South Florida held a 36-26 edge in rebounds when the game was all said and done.
Bethune-Cookman’s 26 rebounds were 16 shy of their seasonal average coming into Thursday (42.4).
The loss wasn’t the way that Bethune-Cookman (5-6, 0-0) wanted to kick off their four-game road trip. They take on the Kennesaw State Owls on Saturday night, in what is another rematch from last season.
With the win, South Florida (5-6, 0-0) is back in the win column for the first time in two weeks. The Bulls will look to make it two straight wins when they take on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks on Monday inside the USF Sun Dome.
– T. Bennett