Wednesday night’s matchup between rivals South Florida (9-21, 3-14) and Central Florida (12-17, 5-13) was tied for a grand total of 17 seconds after the opening tipoff. But after Nehemias Morillo’s opening basket for the Bulls, the rout was on as USF trounced I-4 opponent UCF 74-45 for their largest victory of the season.
It took 30 games, but even without Chris Perry and Corey Allen Jr., USF arguably played their most complete game of the season, aggressively pushing the tempo on offense while defensively stifling the Knights to just 26% shooting for the entire game. “Our defensive intensity and focus was extremely high today,” Coach Orlando Antigua said after the game. “We’re absolutely going to be showing them this tape. They just need to continue to focus, concentrate, and be there for each other.” Offensively, the Bulls exploded right out of the gate with a 27-8 run in the first ten minutes of play and never allowed UCF to even sniff a potential comeback attempt. Four players scored in double figures for USF, including two who racked up double doubles in the victory. Troy Holston Jr. has continued his hot streak of setting the tone early in ballgames as a scoring machine with the absence of the suspended Allen, scoring in double digits in six of the past seven games. “They’re finding me in good situations on the floor. I’m in rhythm more and I’m more comfortable shooting out there,” Holston said afterwards. He followed up a career high of 22 points at Houston with a 19 point, 10 rebound effort in the win on Wednesday night.
Whereas Holston provided the charge in the 1st half, Bo Zeigler shut the door in the 2nd, opening the half with a thunderous alley-oop from Anthony Collins that set the stage for the rest of the game. The promising freshman forward finished the contest with a career high 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 2 blocks. “I think we took it personal because they beat us at their place,” Zeigler commented after the victory. “We just wanted to come out and be aggressive early and get the win on our home floor.”
On the opposing end, it was a night to forget for Donnie Jones’ ball club. Shooting one of their worst field goal percentages all year, UCF suffered their worst loss of the season Wednesday night in the Sun Dome. The Knights were plagued by 17 turnovers throughout the evening, and failed to keep up with USF’s pace throughout the game. Junior forward Staphon Blair was the lone Knight in double digits with 12 points and 4 blocks.
For USF, they look to carry this momentum and aggressiveness into their final game of the regular season, a home matchup with Tulane on Saturday at 4 p.m. on ESPNews.