TAMPA, Fla. – Jahmal McMurray was in pain after taking a hard fall banging his right knee on the floor.
McMurray had to be helped to his feet by teammates as he grimaced and limped his way to the free-throw line, but stayed in the game briefly to knock down a pair of free throws before exiting.
It appeared McMurray would be on the sidelines for some time, but he was back less than two minutes later and finished with 12 points in 38 minutes as he helped USF to a 67-57 win over Savannah State on Sunday.
“My knee is banged up pretty bad, it hurts a lot, but I’m just going to get treatment and what I was saying to myself was just to keep fighting because my team needs me,” McMurray said. “So I was just going to keep fighting and playing hard and not let my knee be a distraction for the game and just keep going and worry about it afterwards.”
McMurray had a number of family members in attendance for the game including his father, two brothers, three uncles, and two cousins, who were also at the game on Friday against No. 1 Kentucky in Miami.
“That’s a wonderful feeling,” McMurray said. “Just having family travel 20 hours to come see me play and see me is just a blessing. I love my family so much and it just means a lot to me that they actually came down here to support me. It just feels great to see their faces.”
McMurray also finished with three rebounds, two assists, and two turnovers as he made 4 of 10 from the floor including 1 of 3 from behind the arc and made all three of his free-throw attempts.
“I think I played pretty well actually,” McMurray said. “Two turnovers actually that I shouldn’t have had—one on a lob play and one I was just being lazy—but I think I played pretty well. I controlled the team, ran us pretty good, and with the minutes I played I just did what the team needed me to do.”
McMurray earned his second start of the season after coming off the bench the previous five games. And although he has been a reserve in five of the seven games, McMurray leads the team in minutes averaging 31.9 a game.
“It really doesn’t matter to me honestly,” he said, “whatever the team needs. Whatever coach wants and needs, that’s just what I’m going to do. If it’s me starting, then it’s me starting. If it’s me coming off the bench, then it’s me coming off the bench giving the team a spark.”
It was the second win of the season for USF (2-5), which was coming off of an 84-63 defeat to Kentucky.
“I feel like we played much more as a team today, everybody was sharing the ball, everybody was getting the shots that they wanted, and everybody got the shots we needed,” McMurray said. “Today we got that win. We fought on defense, we were talking, we stayed communicating, and that’s how we finished out the win.”
USF led by as many as 10 in the second half before Savannah State (3-4) cut the deficit to two on five different occasions.
“Basketball is a game of runs so what we need to do when they start their run is keep their run limited and when we get on our run just keep building on our runs and keep on getting what we want,” McMurray said. “If it’s a fast-paced game at the moment and that’s what we need then we go fast-paced. But if we need to slow it down then that’s just what we have to do.”
McMurray had a key play in the game as he converted a three-point play on a driving layup with 3:20 left to extend the USF lead to 59-52.
“I was looking to pass the ball really, but they were extended high and you already know like people say once they’re pressuring you just go by the team so I just went by him,” McMurray said. “I got into his body and stepped through with a little floater for an and-1—that was a pretty clutch bucket for us.”
USF’s next game will be at Delaware on Thursday. It will be the Bulls’ first road game of the year.