Billikens give Bulls second straight C-USA loss

The Bulls entered Conference USA play in men’s basketball on a skid, and their slide continued Saturday, as they lost 70-52 to Saint Louis.

The Billikens were able to move the ball more effectively than USF, dishing 18 assists to the Bulls’ six.

“We played a Saint Louis team that is playing really well,” USF coach Robert McCullum said. “They did a good job of executing their motion offense, as they usually do.”

USF’s ball movement problems weren’t helped any by Saint Louis’ seven steals.

“If you fall behind by eight or 10 points to them, they are very difficult to come back against,” McCullum said. “After falling behind early we went up by one, and then they went on a run, and from that point on we were playing catch up.”

The Bulls fell behind 34-26 at the break due in part to the Billikens’ four three-point field goals in the first half. USF made four three-point buckets in the game.

Juniors Terrence Leather and Brian Swift paced the Bulls with 12 and 10 points respectively.

All 10 of Swift’s points came in the first half before he left the game for a brief period with a bruised knee.

“Brian had a very good first half,” McCullum said. “He probably played better than anyone else we had in the first half offensively. I’m sure Saint Louis came out and put more emphasis on him too as a result of his 10 points in the first half. He played with a lot of confidence and made two big threes there.”

The Bulls cannot afford any injuries with only seven scholarship players dressed due to the recent ailments of James Holmes (ankle injury, doubtful for today’s game against UAB) and Marlyn Bryant (season ending knee injury) and the departure of senior Jimmy Baxter on Jan. 12.

“We will play the players that we have and not really dwell on those we don’t have,” McCullum said. “Our challenge is to get each of our players to play better and to play harder for longer periods of time. That’s the challenge and it’s not going to do any of us any good to focus on how many players we don’t have.”

The Bulls played two walk-ons a total of 10 minutes, as Alton Darling saw seven minutes of action scoring three points and Brian Graham went scoreless in three minutes.

“Quite frankly it has been a short bench all year,” McCullum said. “Sometimes you might have bodies, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you have any more players that are ready to play.”

The Bulls won’t have much time to lengthen their short bench, when they play tonight at UAB at 8:30 p.m.