It has become a common sight to see the Bulls offense get off to a lackluster start as was the case Saturday, a 65-53 loss to Houston and a fifth straight loss in Conference USA.
The Bulls had to wait until 4:44 into the game to get their first points, a three-point bucket by Brian Swift. The offense didn’t get much stronger as USF only shot 21 percent in the first half and 28 percent for the game.
The Bulls (6-10, 0-5) game-opening drought was their first of a series of many runs without an offensive spark.
“Our field goal percentage, field goal shooting tells the story,” USF coach Robert McCullum said. “Again, we got off to a slow start and (I) said to the team that there is a number of areas that we need to improve in.”
In a period sandwiching the interval, USF went 13 minutes and nine seconds without scoring a field goal, going six minutes and eight seconds without attempting a field goal.
“We had a lot of good looks at the basket, (but) our shots weren’t falling,” Swift said. “(What) we’ve been talking about the last few days (is) that we can’t come from behind. Especially when you’re not shooting the ball well that night. It’s hard to come back from behind.”
The Bulls couldn’t get many points from their leading scorer prior to the game, Bradley Mosley, who was held to 2 of 13 shooting.
The Cougars, who before the game were last in C-USA with a shooting percentage of 39.9, made 47.8 percent of their shots against the Bulls.
Despite having only nine players available and playing seven, USF used full court pressure during the second half, trying to force turnovers to make up for its low shooting percentage.
“You think about maybe doing it earlier, but with nine, 10 minutes in the game, you think about doing it earlier but there’s still a lot of time left,” McCullum said. “You don’t want to push the panic button, and wear our guys out with that much time left in the game.
“When we did turn balls over, we still couldn’t convert.”
While the Bulls struggled into the second half, junior Terrence Leather came out strong, scoring 22 points while bringing down 18 rebounds.
“My teammates were just coming at me,” Leather said. “I didn’t feel like I had pressure on me. Anybody on this team could do what I did tonight.”
Leather made 4 of 14 shots from the field, scoring a majority of his points from the free-throw line. The junior forward’s 13 attempts from the foul line rank No. 4 for USF all time, and his 19 attempts were No. 3.
The Bulls will try to overcome their offensive inconsistencies when they host East Carolina Tuesday.
“We just have to make shots,” Swift said. “We have to go in the gym get some shots up and get comfortable.”
USF basketball suffers another loss
USF lost one of its biggest basketball supporters Thursday.
Roslyn Wittcoff, known as the “first lady of basketball” for her continued involvement in the advancement of USF basketball, died due to heart complications. Wittcoff was 70.
Every year since 1982, Wittcoff and her husband have sponsored a scholarship for one USF basketball player. The Wittcoffs established a second endowment in 1991.
Not only did Wittcoff support the team financially, she and her husband frequently traveled with the team to support Bulls’ basketball.
“In most cases, when the team traveled, they traveled,” executive director of USF athletics Mike Lewis said in a St. Petersburg Times report. “They got on the bus, went to the airports, hotels and flew back with the team. Clearly, a large percentage of those players didn’t just know them as a name on a scholarship because they sat at the gates of airports with them.”
A moment of silence was held for Wittcoff at Saturday’s game against Houston. Previous recipients of the Wittcoffs’ endowed scholarship include Detroit Pistons guard Chucky Atkins, Reggie Kohn, B.B. Waldon and Altron Jackson.