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Bulls get back on track

While most students were away from campus on winter break, the USF men’s basketball team found a new scorer, endured the heartbreak of a one-point loss and tested a zone defense best labeled “break glass in case of emergency.” The winter break also saw the Bulls restore their record to above .500 as they went to 6-5.

USF started the break slow with back-to-back losses against Richmond and Michigan State before winning against Florida International. USF then got one more loss out of its system against Colorado State before winning its fourth USF Holiday Classic, defeating South Alabama and New Orleans.

The Bulls will look to use those lessons as they head into Conference USA play Saturday against No. 14 Louisville.

December 13
Richmond 70, USF 58

The Bulls were out-rebounded, most notably on the offensive end, where the Spiders enjoyed an 11-8 edge.

USF was also plagued by turnovers, giving the ball away 15 times en route to the Bulls’ first home loss of the season.

“We haven’t rebounded the ball well, especially on the offensive end,” USF coach Robert McCullum said. “That’s something that this team needs to do because we’re not a team that is going to average 75 points a game and that’s fine. But to be a good team, part of that is recognizing what you can and can’t do, (while) recognizing and embracing the things that you have to do to give yourself a chance to win. Offensive rebounds are an area that we need to excel in.”

December 16
Michigan State 73, USF 60

Although down 42-19 at halftime, USF refused to lose easily to then-No. 25 Michigan State. The Bulls amassed a 15-1 run to bring the score to 43-34 around five minutes into the second half before ultimately falling.

The Bulls were paced behind the play of unexpected leaders Bradley Mosley and Terrence Leather, who emerged as the team’s dominant offensive force.

Mosley scored 23 points and Leather tallied a game-high 25, while starting a scoring streak that would last the next four games.

“I was extremely proud of the way they played,” McCullum said. “A lot of their points came when they were just creating plays. Bradley has been our most consistent scorer all year, and Terrence continues to elevate his game. Those guys scored 48 out of our 60 points, and it was a very gutsy performance on their part.”

December 20
USF 73, Florida International 56

The Bulls got back on the winning track behind Leather’s second consecutive team-leading scoring performance, as he paced the team with 17 points.

USF shot above 50 percent for the first time, hitting 28 of 55 attempts.

“I was certainly happy to see for the first time this year we made 50 percent of our shots,” McCullum said. “We need to be able to score and create opportunities in our transition offense.”

December 22
Colorado State 66, USF 65

The air was lifted out of the Sun Dome when Colorado State’s Matt Williams made a free throw after the clock ticked down to two seconds to defeat the Bulls.

Junior Marlyn Bryant fouled Williams during a scramble for an offensive rebound after Mosley missed a runner with time winding down.

Again Leather led the Bulls’ scoring attack, tallying 24 points and 15 rebounds.

December 29
USF 78, South Alabama 67

After the late one-point loss to Colorado State, USF pulled everything together for the first game of the USF Holiday Classic against the Jaguars.

The Bulls shot a season-high 61.5 percent from the field, pulled down 39 boards and blocked nine shots.

“It was a game (with) as much as a team effort as we have had in terms of the number of players that made outstanding contributions,” McCullum said.

The Bulls placed four players in double figures, led by Leather with 16, Mosley with 14, Bryant with 13 and freshman Sam Barber with 11.

December 30
USF 66, New Orleans 61

The Bulls won their home tournament in surprising fashion as McCullum called for the team to do something it hasn’t done all season — play zone defense. In the second half, the Bulls used a 3-2 zone to help spark an 18-1 run and defeat New Orleans.

“You could make the case that what we call our 35 defense or 3-2 zone was the difference in the game,” McCullum said. “We certainly don’t play much zone and still probably won’t. I would have to think long and hard to tell you the last time we worked on it.”