Since its loss to UAB, USF has blazed a new trail

During a 27-game schedule, there are several moments in a collegiate men’s basketball team’s season.

There is a moment in South Florida’s season that sticks out as a low moment this year.

The Bulls suffered their worst loss of the season when UAB handed them a 79-69 defeat in the Sun Dome.

The loss was USF’s first Conference USA game and its only home loss of the season.

“That second half against UAB was probably the lowest point of our season,” USF coach Seth Greenberg said. “Hopefully, we’ve improved since then.”

USF will get its chance to avenge the loss and start to secure its spot in the C-USA standings when it travels to Birmingham, Ala., tonight.

“We have to handle the pressure because I think they’re going to be a little more aggressive on their home court,” Greenberg said. “It’s a big game, and a win creates some separation.”

The Bulls are 12-8 overall and 5-4 in C-USA, good for No. 2 in the National Division behind Memphis, and one position above UAB, which is 12-7 overall and 4-4 in the conference.

After starting with a loss to UAB, the Bulls got off to a 0-2 record in conference before becoming a totally different team.

Against UAB, the Bulls’ starting lineup consisted of Reggie Kohn, Marlyn Bryant, Jimmy Baxter, Terrence Leather and Will McDonald.

The lineup has shifted, as Baxter now plays the off guard, Leather has shifted to small forward and freshman Yusuf Baker has stepped into the starting power forward position.

“We’re a little bit of a different team,” Greenberg said. “Marlyn Bryant was a big part of what we were doing then. Marlyn Bryant’s not playing anymore.(Freshman guard) Danny Oglesby wasn’t even in our mix. He gives us another guy that can make a shot.”

Oglesby hasn’t been the only force to come off the Bulls’ bench.

Junior Gerrick Morris, who wasn’t playing with much intensity at the time of the last Bulls-Blazers matchup, has now become a defensive force for the Bulls.

In the Bulls’ last game, a 71-64 win against St. Louis, Morris had five rebounds and a block in 14 minutes.

“I’d love to know that we’re getting that every single time,” Greenberg said. “We had to go man (to man defense) and he literally put on a clinic. He extended screens, which means when guards were coming off down screens, he got out in the passing lane and recovered. When they penetrated the ball, he was quick to help. He contested and affected shots, and rebounded.

“And those are all good things. And more importantly, he had some energy about it, which is huge.”

The Bulls will show many differences in their play against UAB since the last meeting, including a defense that was mostly man-to-man and is now mostly a zone defense.

“That was a long time ago. It was nine games ago,” Greenberg said. “We were an all man-to-man team.

“We played two possessions of zone that entire game,” Greenberg said. “Now, we’re like C-USA’s edition of Syracuse. Their preparation’s probably a little different since they’re playing a team with a different personality.”

USF’s man-to-man defense had trouble containing UAB’s leading scorer, Morris Finley, who scored 28 points in 28 minutes against the Bulls.

“UAB is extremely athletic, and obviously, we can’t just let Mo Finley go off,” Greenberg said. “We did a great job last time in the first half, then in the second half he completely dominated the game. We beat ourselves, also. “

The Bulls have recovered since the loss to the Blazers, winning their last three games and averaging 19.2 turnovers a game as opposed to the 22 (tied for a season high) against the Blazers.

“Twenty-two turnovers and I thought 16 of them were totally unforced,” Greenberg said. “We have to play with our feet on the ground. For some reason, and I don’t know why, we tried to make plays when they weren’t there.”

Assistant Sports Editor Bryan Fazio covers men’s basketball and can be reached at oraclebryan@yahoo.com

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