After winning three straight games entering conference play, USF men’s basketball has struggled to hang with conference opponents since, dropping its last four games by an average of 25 points.
Their latest conference loss came at the hands of No. 9 Wichita State (13-2) on Sunday afternoon in Wichita, Kansas, falling to the Shockers and their season-best 62.7 percent shooting percentage from the field, 95-57.
As he has for a majority of the season, projected NBA first round draft pick guard Landry Shamet led the way for the Shockers. Opposed to the rest of the season, however, Shamet did his damage with his seven assists opposed to scoring.
“Two shots the whole game,” USF coach Brian Gregory told the Associated Press. “He (Shamet) don’t care. I mean, All-American, NBA first-round pick, and he doesn’t care about any of that. That’s because of the type of high-level program they’ve built.”
As a team, the Shockers dished a season-high 28 assists against the Bulls (7-10) and nearly set a record for shooting percentage in a game, but finished the contest shooting 1-9 from the field, dropping their percentage from above 70 percent, to 62.7 percent.
“We had 28 assists on 37 baskets,” Witchita State coach Gregg Marshall said. “Look around college basketball, and you won’t see many teams getting 28 assists. I liked our ball movement.”
With USF missing leading scorer Payton Banks, who missed the game with an illness, the Bulls struggled to produce points in the first half and entered halftime down 51-20.
In the second half, the Bulls offense came back to life with 37 points in the period, but it was still far too little to mount a comeback against the Shockers, who scored 44 second-half points themselves.
“I really like the way our guys competed in the second half,” Gregory said. “I thought we played much better. I thought we played much more composed. They were pressing with three and a half minutes left in the game, so it wasn’t like they weren’t playing hard until the last two minutes. I thought we played much better and made some shots.”
In the absence of Banks, forward Malik Martin led the Bulls with a team-high 13 points and tied for a team-high with 5 rebounds in the defeat.
“I thought Malik Martin gave us a big lift, great energy out there,” Gregory said. “I challenged him. We need him to rebound a little better, but I like the way he played. I like his energy level.”
The Bulls will return to action on Saturday, when No. 19 Cincinnati travels to the Sun Dome for a 7 p.m. tip-off.