While riding a record 14-game losing streak, the men’s basketball team has teased its fans by nearly beating its ranked opponents and being blown out by teams it matches up with well on paper.
The trend continued Saturday with a 65-51 drubbing from Rutgers (15-11, 5-8), which is trying to clinch one of the final spots in the Big East tournament.
USF (6-19, 0-12) has lost to St. John’s, DePaul, Notre Dame and Rutgers – all of which are in the bottom half of the 16-team conference – by a total of 54 points. But the Bulls have come close to upsetting several nationally ranked teams, losing to No. 4 Villanova, No. 11 West Virginia and No. 17 Georgetown by a combined 10 points.
“It’s a tough league from top to bottom, so I don’t really look at the records of our opponents and feel that our chances for victory are going to be any better because of one team’s record versus another,” coach Robert McCullum said.
Despite the loss, senior center Solomon Jones scored 19 points and added 11 rebounds to earn his 12th double-double of the season, but his frustration continues as USF can’t find its first conference win.
“Lack of intensity – that’s one thing we’re suffering from right now. Consistency (is) number one,” Jones said. “I think we played pretty good at Louisville, but after that, the intensity just hasn’t been there for us.”
Saturday’s 14-point loss to the Scarlet Knights was a result of the Bulls’ inability to make field goals and free throws. In the first half, USF shot just 30 percent from the free-throw line and finished the game 34.8 percent from the field.
“I thought before it kind of got away from us, they went out to that double-digit lead in the first half, (and) if we make free throws, clearly we keep it at least single digits,” McCullum said.
Senior guard James Holmes, who leads the Bulls with 17 points a game, finished with 11 and shot 3-for-17 from the field, but he was playing with a minor ankle injury.
“James tweaked his ankle at practice (Friday) within the first 15 minutes of practice and he sat out the rest of practice, so he was clearly bothered with that,” McCullum said.
With its latest loss, USF’s chances to make it to the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden ended, and McCullum is unsure if his players’ motivation will be different for their four remaining games.
“Anytime you’re going through what we’re dealing with, you’re going to have some guys who are going to be affected by it more than others,” McCullum said. “We’ll come out (Sunday) with the expectation being that we’re going to prepare for Providence like we have for the previous opponents.”