With no chance at making the Conference USA tournament, the USF men’s basketball team heads into tonight’s home match with nothing to lose. The same cannot be said for its opponent.
The Bulls will face off against UAB at 7 p.m. The Blazers, who are 10-4 in C-USA, are tied for the No. 3 ranking in the conference with Charlotte and DePaul. A win against the Bulls would greatly help their chances at a higher seeding in the March 10 C-USA tournament.
When the two teams met for the first time this season on Jan. 20, the Bulls turned the ball over 18 times and had their second-lowest point total of the season, losing 86-47.
With the Bulls playing for pride and the Blazers putting it all on the floor for the No. 3 seed, turnovers will likely prove decisive again.
“They’re a team that likes to press and run a lot, so we have to take care of the ball and keep our turnovers low that game,” senior center Gerrick Morris said. “It will really help our chances of winning.”
The Bulls are also playing their final two games while chasing a few records — well, chasing one and avoiding the others.
Morris is only three blocks away from surpassing Curtis Kitchen, whose 257 blocks is a USF record. If Morris breaks the record today, USF will acknowledge the feat before Saturday’s home game against DePaul.
“If he does it on (today), I think the plan is to acknowledge him before the game (Saturday) as opposed to stopping the game,” USF coach Robert McCullum said.
Morris is looking to pass Kitchen against the Blazers and then improve on his record against the Blue Demons in the Bulls’ season finale.
“I hope so,” Morris said. “I think I only need three, so I’m hoping I can do that (today).”
USF, 7-18 overall and 1-13 in C-USA, needs two more wins to avoid trumping the 1996-97 Bulls (8-9, 2-12) for the worst record in the school’s C-USA history. Winning the rest of the season will also keep the Bulls from topping the C-USA record book in conference games lost.
Five teams — two Houston and Tulane teams and one DePaul team — currently hold the record with 14 conference losses.
If Morris is successful at overhauling Kitchen’s record, the Bulls may be able to avoid ownership of some of USF’s less illustrious records. But for the senior, the focus is not records, but performance.
“I’m just hoping to play as well as I’ve been playing the last two weeks,” Morris said.