TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Derryck Thornton scored 22 points, Nik Popovic had 15, and Boston College rallied past South Florida for a 74-60 victory Sunday afternoon.
Boston College (2-0) capitalized on a 38-29 rebounding advantage, led by Steffon Mitchell with 13 and Popovic with eight. Julian Rishwain helped the Eagles with 11 points, and C.J. Felder added 10.
The Eagles went on a 20-4 run late in the first half after five lead changes. Popovic, a 6-foot-11 senior forward, capped the surge with a buzzer-beater from the left corner to make it 43-32.
Eagles coach Jim Christian understood his team’s slow start.
“These games are going to be 40-minute games,” he said. “You have a bunch of freshmen playing on the road for the first time. Five total new guys. I thought our defense tightened up and we did a much better job on the backboard. A lot of good things can happen if you play solid defense, cause turnovers and rebound the ball. And then we made our free throws.”
South Florida (1-1) forced 28 turnovers but failed to take advantage with 40.7% overall shooting, costly fouls and 21 turnovers of its own.
“Offensively, we’ve got to be able to make some open shots,” Bulls coach Brian Gregory said. “In the first half, we probably left 10 to 15 points on the rim on layups. You can’t do that, not against the quality of opponents that we’re now playing.”
South Florida was in control for most of the first half, taking its biggest lead at 26-17 seven minutes before the break.
David Collins led the Bulls with 19 points and seven steals. Laquincy Rideau scored 14 points, and Ezacuras Dawson finished with 11.
Boston College: A pair of newcomers have the Eagles off to a flying start. Thornton, a graduate transfer from USC, produced 45 points in his first two games. Freshman guard Jay Heath had 24, including 18 in a season-opening victory against Atlantic Coast Conference rival Wake Forest.
South Florida: The Bulls are missing star forward Alexis Yetna, who suffered a season-ending knee injury during a preseason practice. The redshirt sophomore was the American Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year last season with a league-leading 9.6 rebounds per game and 15 double-doubles.
Mitchell notched six assists, two more than the entire South Florida team. . Bulls sophomore forward Michael Durr extended his streak of successful free throws to 16 in a row dating to the last season by converting his first attempt. He then missed two of his other three tries. . South Florida lost a non-conference home game for only the second time in its last 19.
STAT OF THE DAY
South Florida limited Arkansas-Pine Bluff to 15 points in the second half of its 70-41 victory in its season opener Tuesday. In the first half Sunday, the Bulls allowed 43, including 26 in the last seven minutes.
HE SAID IT
“It’s a 10-point game with eight minutes to go, so you’re still in the game and you’ve played not well,” Gregory said. “So maybe that’s the good news, but the bad news is we didn’t play well.”
Boston College will look to remain unbeaten when it begins a five-game homestand against High Point on Wednesday night, the first of its four opponents in the eighth annual Gotham Classic.
South Florida hosts IUPUI on Wednesday night in the opening round of the eight-team Cayman Islands Classic.