After its first loss of the season Tuesday at Providence, the USF men’s basketball team seeks to correct its two biggest problems heading into Saturday’s contest at Nebraska.
The Bulls turned the ball over 19 times against the Friars, bringing their season average to 19.3 per game, and came away with its poorest rebounding total of the season.
And the Bulls must hurry to make their changes because the winter break schedule holds arguably the toughest non-conference games of the season.
USF welcomes Richmond to the Sun Dome on Dec. 13 before traveling three days later to No. 6 Michigan State, which defeated USF 65-56 last year. The Bulls then start a five-game homestand that includes a Dec. 22 matchup against Colorado State, a team that defeated USF 82-70 last season. The other games are Florida International on Dec. 20, two games during the USF Holiday Classic on Dec. 29 and 30, and the Conference USA opener against Louisville on Jan. 10.
So the focus this week has been working on offensive sets as well as trying to find a way to reduce the number of turnovers. Though the Bulls have turned the ball over with a lineup that includes both Bradley Mosley and Brian Swift in the backcourt, USF coach Robert McCullum said no change in lineup likely would be made to reduce the number of turnovers.
“We’ll try to improve, look at why we’re turning the basketball over so much, and try to address our decision-making or our lack of toughness or whatever the case may be with the current guys,” McCullum said. “We’re certainly not going to write anyone off four games into the year.”
While the Cornhuskers have forced 16, 13 and 12 turnovers in their first three games this season, all of which were wins, USF turnovers are still a good possibility due to Nebraska’s physical style of play.
“Defensively, they really get out and pressure you,” McCullum said. “They play extremely hard. They will be the most physical team that we have played. They will be much more physical than Providence. Providence was, but I didn’t really consider them to be a very physical team. Nebraska will play all man-to-man, and it will be very physical. We are going to have to play our best game yet to give ourselves a chance to win.”
After averaging 44 rebounds per game before the matchup against Providence, the Bulls only managed 26.
Most of the Bulls rebounding miscues occurred on the offensive end, which was one of their strong suits heading into the game against the Friars. But the Bulls managed just six Tuesday.
The Bulls will look to regain that form against the Cornhuskers, whose offensive style includes bringing its post players out of the paint.
Nebraska’s style may pose more of a problem, bringing center Gerrick Morris and forward Terrence Leather from under the basket.
“What’s going to help us rebound is limiting them to one shot,” McCullum said. “It doesn’t matter where our big guys are on the floor. It could give us more problems because now offensively, they kind of get a running start. You have to block out from further out on the floor. We are getting ready to play a style that is different game in and game out.”
Freshman forward Sam Barber, who has not seen action since Nov. 25 against Valparaiso due to personal problems, practiced with the Bulls Thursday and will travel to Lincoln, Neb., likely giving the team an extra man off the bench.