Arrive. Play one game. Leave. That has been the theme of South Florida (9-23) over the past couple of seasons when playing in conference tournaments, and was no different on Thursday night as they were immediately bounced by Uconn (18-13) 69-43 in the XL Center in Hartford. The thrashing brings a merciful end to USF’s season and the first year of the Coach Orlando Antigua era.
Having loss their final two games of the regular season, Uconn knew coming in that any chance of receiving a bid to the NCAA Tournament and defending their national title would be directly tied to winning all four games in the AAC Tournament. The Huskies certainly played like a team trying to keep their March dreams alive, making USF their first victims. The contest was never close as Uconn jumped out to a 17-2 run within the first ten minutes of the contest and breathed easily for the rest of the contest. Emerging star Daniel Hamilton shined as the star of the game with 20 points and 3 assists, while Amida Brimah thwarted USF attempts inside, adding 5 rebounds and 5 blocks to his 9 points.
The game was a struggle offensively for USF from the opening tip. Only scoring 2 points in the first ten minutes of the first half, Coach Antigua’s guys dug themselves into an early hole through shooting an abysmal 23.8% from the field in the first period. “I just think we came out in the first half and faced a team that came out with a little bit of vinegar,” Antigua said after the game. “I thought our guys had some nerves, and understandably so in a conference tournament with the kind of atmosphere that was here tonight, and once we settled down and we started making some shots.” Nehemias Morillo eventually got things going as he led the USF scoring effort with 13 points, while emerging shooter Troy Holston Jr. was right behind him with 12. However, it wasn’t enough to extend the young Bulls’ season.
Having dealing with obstacles of youth, inexperience, injury, and lack of veteran leadership, the inaugural year of the Antigua era is in the books. Now comes a seven months of offseason workouts, conditioning, and recruiting before USF Men’s Basketball returns to action in the fall with hopes on building from this season.