Fitts Shines Despite USF Loss

          Freshman forward scores 28 despite 10-point loss to conference rival Memphis.

TAMPA – USF Men’s Basketball (6-15, 0-10 The American) dropped their 13th straight game in American Athletic Conference play, dating back to last season, Thursday night to Memphis (17-6, 7-3 The American) by a score of 85-75.

Despite the loss, freshman Malik Fitts recorded his first career double-double with 28 points and 11 rebounds in the losing effort.  In addition to a new team season high for scoring, Fitts also would have one of the most exciting plays of the game, with a buzzer-beating jump shot to close out the first half.  Fitts’s buzzer-beater cut the Memphis lead to five at the break, down from as much as 16 with 5:48 remaining in the first half.

“We’ve lost one of our key players for the last two games,” said Fitts, referencing guard Geno Thorpe.  “So I felt like I had to be more aggressive as we had another important piece that was out tonight.”

Thorpe, USF’s leading scorer has not played since a January 25th loss against UConn.

In addition to the absence of Thorpe, USF would turn the ball over 18 times leading to 12 points for Memphis off turnovers.

“I’ve gotta take care of the ball better,” freshman point guard Michael Bibby said.  “Turnovers really do kill us.”

Despite turning the ball over five times himself, Bibby scored 13 points and tied a career-high in rebounds with six over 35 minutes.

Even though USF remains winless under interim head coach Murry Bartow, Bartow remains optimistic.

“I’m proud of the effort and proud of the fight,” Bartow said.  “I’ve been part of games that have been 19 point games that can easily go to 30.  We’re not happy about the loss at all, but there’s just a lot of fight in these guys.”

On the other side of the ball, Memphis was led by Dedric Lawson.  Lawson led all scorers with 29 points.  Memphis’s second-leading scorer was Lawson’s brother, KJ.

“The Lawson brothers are really, really good,” Bartow said.  “We did a great job in the first game [January 14th at Memphis] against the Lawson brothers.  But tonight, they were really, really good.”

The Bulls now hit the road for their next two games.  USF will take on Temple on Sunday and UConn next Wednesday before finally returning to the Sun Dome to face East Carolina on February 11th at 8 p.m.

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