When Wes Vanbeck’s last second three point shot attempt went off the mark and the final buzzer sounded, a moment of joy and relief was shared by the home team and their Sun Dome faithful as South Florida (8-19, 2-12) ended their eleven game losing streak by defeating Houston (9-16, 1-12) 69-67 in a nail biter on Tuesday night. The victory marks the first win for the green and gold in six weeks, a victory over East Carolina on January 3rd.
After weeks and weeks of coming up short, the Bulls were able to finally put everything together, execute in high pressure situations, and secure a much needed conference victory. Shooting 51% from the field throughout the entire game, the victory was anchored by the three headed attack of Troy Holston Jr., Bo Zeigler, and Anthony Collins. Zeigler continues to fill the void left by the injured Chris Perry through making an impact in the starting lineup. He provided 11 points and 6 rebounds, and a critical block and rebound within the pressure filled final two minutes of the contest that was huge for the Bulls down the stretch. Possibly having his best performance of the season, the veteran Collins made a sizable contribution with 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 6 assists, in which he is now second all-time in career assists at USF. But Troy Holston Jr.’s production was the difference maker. Starting in his fourth straight contest, Holston scored a career high 18 points while racking up 5 rebounds before fouling out late in the ballgame. His progression over the course of the season was a point of emphasis Coach Orlando Antigua made afterwards. “Troy and the other young guys continue to keep getting better every day. We keep challenging him to be aggressive and not one dimensional. We want him to get better and become more aggressive which is what he’s doing.”
Houston’s identity is tied to them leading the AAC in three point shots made and their propensity for launching from beyond the arc was on full display in the Sun Dome. The Cougars shot 8-30 from downtown, five of them being buried by L.J. Rose. The starting guard provided the bulk of Houston’s offense throughout, scoring 25 points, including a clutch pull up 3 with eight seconds remaining in the game that brought the Cougars to within one. But the Bulls’ late free throw shooting was just enough to stave off the attack of Kelvin Sampson’s Cougars.
Ending the losing streak is certainly a sigh of relief for the young Bulls, especially after weeks of battling without any tangible success to show for it. As Antony Collins mentioned after the game, “Winning helps a lot with morale. It puts an extra pep in our step. Once you get a taste of victory, you want to continue it.” That is exactly what the Bulls look to do on Saturday when they travel to Greenville for a rematch with East Carolina.