By Admir Durakovic
The Knights took their time to get started in Florida in their 60-54 loss to the University of South Florida. The loss puts the Knight’s record at 5-7 as they get set to start playing in their NEC games.
The game started off scoreless for the Knights for six minutes. In that time, the Bulls got out to an 11-0 lead and only conceded one 3-pointer to jump out to an early 18-3 lead.
The Knights spent their previous five games bouncing back and forth from the win and loss columns while USF was riding a five-game win streak.
“These last two games we were right there to win both games in the last few possessions in an Atlantic 10 and American Conference arenas,” Knights head coach Greg Herenda said. “Obviously we wanted to win but these experiences will make us better heading into conference play. I am very proud of my guys – this has the chance to be a very special group in NEC play.”
With eight minutes left in the first half, USF redshirt freshman forward Alexis Yetna hit a jump shot to give his team a 17 point lead, the largest in the game, at 27-10.
USF was ready to roll over the Knights, when a change in defensive shape from playing man-to-man to a 2-3 zone defense forced USF to revamp their offense.
Despite the Knights struggling to rebound all night, falling behind on 47 rebounds to 24 rebounds, they excelled at forcing USF to commit turnovers. SFU had nine turnovers in the first half alone and finished with 16 as the Knights finished with 11 turnovers in comparison.
The Knights clawed back the first half deficit to go into halftime only ten points behind USF and would nearly turn the game around in the final 20 minutes.
“It just took us a while to adjust to South Florida’s defense early in the game but the boys did a great job rallying to get into the half only down ten points,” Herenda said.
After the first five minutes of the second half, the Knights went on an unanswered, eight-minute scoring run in which they closed a 43-31 gap and managed to take the lead for the first time in the game at 46-43.
Junior forward Kaleb Bishop scored nine points off of three shots from behind the arc and combined with senior guard Darnell Edge’s six points to lead the scoring in the Knight’s comeback run.
USF got back into the game near the end of the second half where they managed to tie the game at 54-54 with a minute and 25 seconds left. In that time they Bulls scored six points and kept the Knights scoreless to secure their victory.
“In the second half our zone defense was very effective and we spread them out on the offensive end and had some great rhythm and opportunities. We just came up short on a few offensive possessions and obviously got hurt on the glass,” Herenda said.
“I said before the game to a lot of different people, this team (FDU) is really good,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a post game interview.
The Knights return to action in the new year on Jan. 3 when they travel to Robert Morris to open up conference play.