Even though the USF men’s basketball team has been faced with hard times in the last two weeks both on and off the court, the Bulls are returning to the Sun Dome Saturday to face Houston at just the right time.
With the combination of history-making losses, three players quitting or being dismissed and players getting injured, USF is in need of some positives. The Bulls started to get the break they needed this week with Tuesday’s game at Memphis.
Even though the Bulls came away with a 66-53 loss, they tallied 37.3 percent shooting from the field. They grabbed 35 rebounds and played harder than they have over the last few games.
“We went to Memphis and didn’t come out with the win, but I think we played pretty good,” junior guard Brian Swift said. “We came out harder than we had in the last couple of games.”
The effort put out during the loss to the Tigers showed that the team chemistry hasn’t suffered even though the team has only seven scholarship players left after the season’s mounting turmoil.
“I think it was a much improved effort against Memphis, although we were disappointed that we lost. But it was a much improved effort,” USF coach Robert McCullum said. “I think it speaks volumes for our chemistry.”
The chemistry has been sustained since the team realized this was the hand they were dealt.
“I think at first, seeing what happened and everything, we were kind of hurt a little bit, but after we settled in and just realized guys are gone and guys aren’t coming back,” Swift said, “it kind of brought us together.”
With only seven players on scholarship, the Bulls are now coming closer together with the small group.
“It makes us come together a lot,” Swift said. “There’s only a few of us, so we have everyone together all the time.
“The guys that are still here, we basically know we have a lot of games left. We just all say were going to stick it out and work hard, because we’ve come too far to give up. The guys that are here want to be here, so we are just going to keep moving.”
In addition to the game against Memphis being a positive for McCullum and the Bulls, practices this week have also given the Bulls a little light in dark times.
“After Monday’s practice I had two assistants on two different occasions come in and say, ‘Coach, this is the most enjoyable practice we had all year. Practice was more fun that it’s been all year,'” McCullum said. “No one here is singing sad songs. No one here is worried.”
The Bulls now look to avenge their last home loss of the season, an 85-40 loss to Louisville.
“We’ve got Houston coming in,” Swift said. “They’re a good team, but we’re coming back home, and we’re trying to avenge our loss against Louisville at home, so we’re hungry right now.”