SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Sometimes a loss is a good thing.
South Florida coach Robert McCullum thinks his Bulls' 59-47 loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Friday went a long way in USF's 72-66 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday, good for third place in the Price Cutter Classic at Missouri State University.
"Sometimes you can take a disappointing loss to serve as a wakeup call," McCullum said.
Senior guard James Holmes, who led the Bulls with 24 points, said the team was ready to prove that it was better than it played Friday.
"We felt we should have won. Our guys couldn't wait to get out there tonight," he said. "We played harder. We took better care of the ball. We were getting loose balls."
But as well as the Bulls played, Georgia Southern played almost as well in a game that wasn't decided until the last minute.
With the Bulls leading 67-65, USF caught a break. Georgia Southern's Elton Nesbitt was at the free throw line with a chance to tie the game at 67.
Nesbitt missed the first free throw and made the second, helping USF keep a 67-66 lead.
Holmes followed that with a basket and was fouled to give the Bulls a 70-66 lead.
The Bulls watched their 32-30 halftime lead disappear as Georgia Southern opened with a 6-2 run to take a 36-34 with 18:20 to go. Donte Gennie scored four of those points.
USF countered with a 6-0 run and pushed ahead 40-36 with 16:21 left. Three straight scores by McHugh Mattis extended the Bulls' lead to 46-40 with 13:02 left.
After Georgia Southern tied the game at 46 with 11:32 left, Melvin Buckley hit his fourth 3-pointer and first of the second half to give USF a 49-46 lead at the 11:14 mark. Holmes followed Buckley with his second 3-pointer of the game to give USF a 52-46 lead.
The Bulls pushed the lead to 57-49 with 8:25 to go before Georgia Southern went on a 10-0 run to lead 59-57 with 6:07 left.
A 3-pointer by Holmes and a three-point play by Jones gave USF a 67-61 lead with 2:38 left, but Georgia Southern scored two straight baskets to get to within 67-65 with 1:40 left.
Unlike Friday night, when the Bulls had trouble finding their shooting eye, on Saturday, USF jumped out to a 9-0 lead to start the game, thanks in part to two 3-pointers by Buckley.
Nesbitt finished with 22 for Georgia Southern, and Gennie added 13.