Despite the odds being strongly against them, the USF men’s basketball team traveled to No. 10 Cincinnati to win.
Although the Bulls lost 80-67, they held with the Bearcats and beat the predicted 25-point spread.
“As strange as it might sound, we didn’t come up here for this,” Robert McCullum said in a post-game radio broadcast. “Every time we line up and play, regardless of how great the odds are, we come out to win.”
Early in the game the Bulls made good on their goal, jumping out to a 12-10 lead during the first half before Cincinnati turned on the defensive intensity.
Two Bearcats steals sparked a 10-0 run in the opening half allowing the Bearcats to keep the lead for good.
“The two things that we had to do, we did not do,” McCullum said. “One, we had to limit points off turnovers by them. We committed 22 turnovers to their 14. Secondly, we had to keep them off the offensive boards. They had 15 offensive boards to our six.”
The Bulls closed in again in the second half, coming within nine points as the clock ticked down to a little over nine minutes remaining in the game, before Cincinnati and Tony Bobbitt went on a 15-2 run.
Two-consecutive three-pointers by Bobbitt, who finished the game with a career-high eight three-pointers, sparked the run.
During the second half Bobbitt and USF guard Brian Swift turned the game into a three-point bomb shootout, as Bobbitt made six in the half and Swift made four in the final three minutes.
Swift also set a career high in three-pointers with seven, placing him at No. 4 in the USF single game records. Swift also led the Bulls in scoring against the Bearcats, putting up 23 points. The junior point guard has come on strong lately, averaging 18.3 throughout the last four games, including Wednesday’s loss.
“Because of attrition, his role has changed,” McCullum said. “We asked him to score, and told him he needed to score more. In the beginning of the season that wasn’t his role.”
Swift’s scoring surge couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bulls, whose remaining scorer spent much of the night on the bench. Junior forward Terrence Leather scored 13 points, while seeing only 18 minutes of action. Leather played only nine minutes in the first half, due to picking up three fouls. He quickly picked up his fourth a minute into the second half.
Leather’s importance to the Bulls was evident when he came into the game as the Bulls were down 45-28 and quickly scored four points, handed out an assist and grabbed a rebound sparking a 9-2 run that cut USF’s deficit to 51-41.
Leather wasn’t the only big man in foul trouble for the Bulls, as four of USF’s five forwards committed at least four fouls. Brandon Brigman fouled out of the game with nine minutes and 23 seconds remaining on an illegal screen call.
“We had more early foul trouble than we had any other game,” McCullum said.
The lack of big men led to two firsts under McCullum’s lead at USF.
The Bulls played mostly zone defensively for the first time this season and freshman walk-on Brandyn Flowers saw his first action in Division I basketball.
“It’s difficult to look back, but the early foul trouble clearly sort of changed the game early in the first half,” McCullum said. “When your entire frontline is down with foul trouble it really limits what you can do.
“We played zone almost the entire game, which is a first.”