There are games throughout the year when teams have the chance to either stamp their mark on the season with a name-making win or miss another opportunity.
Consider this weekend’s South Florida-Cincinnati game the latter.
The Bulls’ woes against Top 25 teams continued as the Bearcats won their 19th straight game, defeating USF 78-68 Saturday before a crowd of 7,372 at the Sun Dome.
“I’m disappointed again,” coach Seth Greenberg said. “We have to seize the moment and we haven’t. If that’s my fault, it’s my fault. I’ll take responsibility.”
It was the Bulls’ ulcer-inducing 26th consecutive loss to an Associated Press Top 25 team and the 15th under Greenberg.
As has been the case in a majority of those losses, the Bulls were in the game, but unable to put together a definitive, momentum-swinging push.
“It’s very frustrating,” Altron Jackson said. “But we have to get over that hump to be a great team like (Top 25) teams.”
Will McDonald’s tip-in with 14:43 left in the second half gave the Bulls their final lead at 40-39, but USF then went nearly 10 minutes without a field goal. Jackson, who was on the bench during that stretch after picking up his fourth foul, ended the drought on a three-pointer with 5:04 left that cut the lead to 57-50.
But the Bearcats refused to let USF get closer than five points from there, sinking 15 of their final 17 free throws. Cincinnati was an efficient 27-of-30 from the free-throw line for the game.
“(USF) came out with high intensity and emotion,” Cincinnati’s Steve Logan said. “So we tried to talk to our guys and meet their emotion and intensity for the first 10 minutes of the game.”
Logan, the reigning Conference USA Player of the Year, was typically spectacular. He scored 27 points, had seven assists and forced the Bulls to stray from their 1-3-1 and employ man-to-man defense almost exclusively.
“(Logan’s) just really smart,” Greenberg said. “You admire how he plays. You can’t help but admire the way he plays.”McDonald was overpowering in the loss, matching his career high with 28 points. During one stretch in the first half, McDonald scored 11 of the Bulls’ 13 points.
“I realized when I saw (McDonald) on tape that he can really play,” Logan said. “I never saw him play (in person). He’s so solid and strong and physical, it’s kinda hard to stop him down low.”
Despite the loss, the Bulls’ third in their last four games, Greenberg was optimistic about USF’s chances for postseason play.
“With our strength of schedule, if we won 20, I think we’d be in good shape,” Greenberg said. “But who am I? I’m Joe Bag-O-Donuts. I don’t get a vote on that (selection) committee.”
- Brandon Wright covers men’s basketball and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org