Despite being mired in the worst start ever in Conference USA, the USF men’s basketball team hasn’t lost its confidence.
In fact, junior guard Brian Swift’s confidence seems to have been boosted after the Bulls suffered their eighth consecutive loss Monday against TCU. Though the Bulls face No. 13 Cincinnati tonight at 7 on the road, where they’ve won just once in eight games, Swift guaranteed that the Bulls would not become the first C-USA team to go winless throughout league play.
“I’ll tell you right now, we will get a Conference USA victory. We won’t go 0 and whatever,” Swift said after Tuesday’s practice. “I will not go without a win. We’re going to keep continuing to improve, we’re going to keep playing, and we’re going to get us a win.”
While Swift didn’t say that win would come against the Bearcats, it seems as though the team has been fired up by USF coach Robert McCullum’s recent comments. After each of the last two losses, McCullum said he was proud of his team because the Bulls had put themselves in a position to win down the stretch, something the team wasn’t doing during the first five losses, when blowouts seemed to be inevitable.
But after coming so close, especially in the past three games, the Bulls are anxious to finally gain their first victory.
“After eight losses — the first five were basically blowouts, but then the last three games it’s gotten a lot better,” Swift said Tuesday. “But we’re still 0-8, and that’s not good enough.
“We’ve worked hard enough with the seven guys that we have in games, but it gets frustrating that we still don’t win. But we’re going to come along.”
During the last two games the Bulls have been receiving the box treatment, the box-and-one defense that is.
With Swift starting the Bulls’ offense and assisting forward Terrence Leather with the scoring load lately, teams are beginning to play four players in a box-style zone while having one defend Swift one-on-one.
“The last few games I’ve been hitting,” Swift said after Monday night’s loss to TCU. “That’s the defensive strategy for the other team.”
Swift put in 13 points against the Horned Frogs, his third consecutive game in double figures. He scored 17 against Tulane on Saturday and a career-high 20 on Feb. 3 against East Carolina.
The Bulls had trouble reacting to the defense because it is something they have not seen this season or worked on in practice.
“When we go into timeouts, coach (McCullum) tries to draw something up to try and counter it, but if you don’t work on it, it’s kind of hard,” Swift said. “It’s kind of hard to play against a defense you’re not used to playing against.”
After tonight’s game, the Bulls return to the Sun Dome to host Southern Miss on Friday, meaning there won’t be much time to practice against a new defense.
“When you’re playing four games in six days, you don’t have a lot of opportunities to do a lot of things,” McCullum said after Monday’s loss. “You don’t have opportunities to add new things. We’ll make some adjustments, but there’s not going to be a lot of things that we can add in the next 48 hours.”
The Bulls may not even see the box-and-one when they play the Bearcats, who pose a different threat than TCU.
“The team we’re playing Wednesday is a different team than TCU,” McCullum said. “There will be some similarities in maybe the amount of pressure they will apply maybe defensively, but they might feel that they don’t have to do that. They’re bigger, stronger and more athletic; they might not have to do that.”
Oracle Sports Editor Adam Adkins contributed to this report.