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Bulls Hang With Houston in Conference Opener


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Bulls Hang With Houston in Conference Opener

Chris Perry records seventh-career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds


TAMPA, DEC. 30, 2015  Orlando Antigua’s Bulls took a lot of steps in the right direction at the start of American Athletic Conference play.

USF was tied with Houston at halftime and benefitted from a strong inside game in a 73-67 loss before a impressive holiday crowd of 2,754 at the Sun Dome on Wednesday afternoon.

USF (3-11, 0-1) dominated on the boards by a 45-23 margin and scored 26 points in the paint. Chris Perry grabbed 10 rebounds and posted 12 of his team-high 19 points after the break. The Bulls have outrebounded opponents in five of the past six games.

“We’re a pretty good rebounding team, but we just got annihilated on the boards today,” Houston head coach Kelvin Sampson said.

USF also had the hotter hand, shooting 43.1 percent from the field and finishing with three players in double figures. Jahmal McMurray made five of USF’s six 3-pointers and extended his double-digit streak to six games with 18 points. Nehemias Morillo added 12 points and tied Perry with a team-high four assists.

“It’s a team that is continuing to get better,” head coach Orlando Antigua. “We’ve still got room to grow. We just have to keep moving that way.”

Houston (11-2, 1-0) got a game-high 20 points from Devonta Pollard and 19 points from Rob Gray Jr. Damyean Dotson added 17 points and his 3-pointer extended the Cougars’ lead to 70-66 with less than a minute remaining.

Houston took a 13-11 lead in its all-time series with USF and did a lot of its damage on the defensive end. The Cougars scored 29 points off 20 turnovers by the Bulls.

“We’ve got to take care of the ball a lot better,” Antigua said.

Despite the turnovers, USF showed great resilience and made Houston work for its sixth victory in the past seven games.

Perry’s one-handed, alley-oop slam with 14 seconds left in the opening period tied things up at 34-34 and capped off a hot shooting half for the Bulls. USF knocked down 52.4 percent of its attempts from the field (11-for-21), which marked the Bulls’ best first-half output of the season.

McMurray drained four 3-pointers in five attempts and led all scorers with 13 points. The Bulls also played big inside the paint while outrebounding Houston, 16-12. Jaleel Cousins grabbed six boards and Perry heated up late with seven points and four rebounds.

The lead changed hands twice in the opening minutes of the second half before Houston jumped out to a 55-44 advantage. USF went scoreless for nearly four minutes during the Cougars’ 10-0 run, but the Bulls fought their way back in it.

USF responded with a 10-2 run and a 3-pointer from Morillo trimmed the deficit all the way down to 57-54 with 8:09 to go. Houston jumped back out to an eight-point lead with less than five minutes remaining when USF’s star big man started to take over.

Eight points from Perry in a span of just over two minutes cut the Bulls’ deficit to 66-64 with 2:14 to play. With a double team on Perry, the junior forward dished it out to a wide open Bo Zeigler, whose dunk got the Bulls within one with 1:09 remaining.

“I was out there going hard for my teammates and good things just started happening,” said Perry, who registered his seventh career double-double.

Houston answered with a 3-pointer by Dotson with 46 seconds left and forced a pair of turnovers to seal the victory.

USF will start the New Year with a two-game road trip that begins 7:30 p.m. Saturday at SMU. The Bulls take on rival UCF in Orlando on Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 7 p.m. before returning to the Sun Dome for a two-game homestand. It all starts with a test against Cincinnati on Sunday, Jan. 10 at noon before USF hosts Tulane on Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. Reserve your seats at USFBullsTix.com.

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