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To stop skid, Bulls must fight uphill battle

Tonight, the USF men’s basketball team will try to stop history in its tracks.

The Bulls have nine losses going into tonight’s game against Southern Miss, and if they do not emerge from the Sun Dome victorious, it will be their worst losing streak in over two decades.

“I didn’t think we would be 0-9, but we are playing the hand that we have been dealt,” USF coach Robert McCullum said.

It was the 1979-80 season the last time USF suffered ten losses in a row; that season the Bulls went on to lose 12 games consecutively before snapping its skid. Despite being near the bottom of the conference pack, the Golden Eagles (11-9) have four C-USA wins, including a victory over Memphis, which is No. 2 in the conference.

“We are playing better, but we are playing against some good teams,” McCullum said.

Since three crushing defeats by an average of 34 points against Louisville, Saint Louis and UAB, USF has been getting closer to not getting smothered each time it takes the court. The Bulls even led 12-10 in the first half against nationally ranked Cincinnati Wednesday night before losing by a respectable 13 points.

The Bulls are still struggling with a short bench and a short list of scholarship players. The situation has gotten to such a point that senior walk-on Brian Graham is now averaging almost 24 minutes per game. It is good to have fresh bodies on the bench and on the court, but the fact of the matter is that Graham has contributed on average only two points per game.

“He is doing the things he can do,” McCullum said. “What we ask Brian Graham to do is what we ask the rest of our players to do.”

If the Bulls have any chance of stopping their slide, they must stay out of foul trouble. USF’s leading scorer, Terrence Leather, got into foul trouble early on Wednesday and was only able to contribute a below average 13 points. Brandon Brigman fouled out in the second half, and Brian Swift and Graham each picked up four fouls by the end of the game.

No matter how the matchup is dissected, USF is the underdog. The team has a mental challenge to overcome in the fact that it has not won a game in over a month; its last victory was on Dec. 30. And although Southern Miss will not present as stifling a defense as Cincinnati, the Bulls still have an offensive challenge ahead of them.

“Southern Miss will be different, more deliberate,” McCullum said. “They will not beat themselves. We know we have our work cut out for us, but we’ll be ready to play.”

Brian Fazio contributed to the report