A loose grip

There are no Owls in Indiana, and that could be potentially bad for the USF men’s basketball team when it takes on Valparaiso tonight.

USF coach Robert McCullum said the Crusaders (1-1) will be a much better basketball team than Florida Atlantic, which the Bulls scraped by Friday.

“I don’t know how much from the game (Friday) will really help us in terms of just being able to see how weak we were with the basketball,” McCullum said.

USF committed 23 turnovers against FAU and the Bulls cannot afford to do that again as they take on a more talented Valparaiso team, which scored 20 points off turnovers in a season-opening win against Arkansas-Monticello.

McCullum said the Crusaders will probably not play a full-court press like the Owls did, but they will be a much more talented squad.

“(Valparaiso) will be a totally different team,” McCullum said. “The team will be bigger, a lot bigger.

“They will probably be a lot more skilled. Maybe not as athletic overall, but better basketball players.”

After Friday’s game McCullum said his team certainly needs to work on handling the ball.

“Hopefully we can take care of the basketball better,” McCullum said. “Fight pressure better, be stronger with the ball and make better decisions.”

After winning eight of the last nine Mid-Continent Conference regular season titles, the Crusaders are a real threat to USF. Typical of most preparation, McCullum said he planned on imitating Valpo as best he could.

“(On) Sunday, we put our guys in the most difficult situations we possibly (could) so that they won’t get caught off guard (today),” McCullum said.

To promote better ball handling, McCullum will try to keep sophomore James Holmes out of foul trouble. Holmes turned over the ball only once on Friday, but after not committing a foul in the first half against the Owls, he picked up USF’s first five penalties in a five-minute period midway through the second half.

“I thought I made a big mistake in allowing James Holmes to pick up his fifth foul. That was crucial,” McCullum said. “I realized he picked his fourth one up, but I didn’t think, before I could go to the bench, that he’d pick his fifth one up that quickly because I wanted to save him. That way we would have a shooter available late in the game.”

Many interesting subplots highlight this match up. The Crusaders, like the Bulls, are in the middle of transition after their head coach, Scott Drew, stepped down in August to accept the Baylor job. His father and former Crusaders coach Homer Drew, who has the most wins in school history, took over the team once more to lead Valpo for a 25th season.

A reunion of sorts will also take place tonight when freshman center Konimba Diarra plays against former high school teammate, Valpo freshman Oumar Sylla. Both Diarra and Sylla are natives of Mali and attended Our Savior New American School in Centereach, N.Y.