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Bulls fail to dig out win in Charlotte

The USF men’s basketball team couldn’t pick up its second win of the season, losing 84-72 against the Charlotte 49ers Wednesday.

After winning their first Conference USA game 68-60 Friday against Southern Miss, the Bulls failed to notch its first back-to-back wins since late November.

The Bulls kept the score close through most of the game but could not suppress the 49ers long-range shooting.

NCAA tournament favorite Charlotte shot 42 percent from three-point land, while sinking 12 of 28 long bombs.

“It’s when they make the big shots,” coach Robert McCullum said during the post-game radio show. “The game is still in doubt and they have the ability to make a big basket.”

The Bulls brought the score to a two-point difference during the second half, but the 49ers continually made the big shots to pull away and take the lead.Senior guard Demon Brown led the 49ers scoring 22 points, including six three-pointers

The 49ers were also able to outplay the Bulls on the offensive glass, grabbing 16 offensive rebounds, compared to the Bulls’ 11.

Charlotte came into Wednesday’s game leading C-USA in rebounding, tallying 41.1 rebounds per game.

Since the 49ers shot 28 three-pointers, many of the rebounds went long off the rim, allowing both teams to pick up the board. However, McCullum said a lack of toughness led to the difference in rebounding and ultimately the game.

“The lack of toughness cost us,” McCullum said. “Because of lack of toughness, they got a lot of long rebounds. There are going to be a lot of those, because all the threes they shoot.”

The Bulls bounced back from another poor start, trailing by 17 in the first half, and turning the ball over 10 times in 10 minutes.

The Bulls turned the ball over 13 times in the first half for a total of 16 in the game.

“The difference in the game is they were the tougher team,” McCullum said. “The number of our turnovers early on showed our lack of toughness.”

While the Bulls let the 49ers win the offensive rebounding battle and cause turnovers early, they stayed in it on the offensive end, as five Bulls scored in double figures.

“We had five guys in double figures, and that’s one of the few times all year we had that happen,” McCullum said. “Each time we evaluate an opponent, (we look at defense) and make no bones about it, I don’t think they’re a good defensive team.

“I’m not surprised we were able to score, and get the type of shots we got.”

Terrence Leather, coming off a one-game suspension for missing class, led the Bulls, scoring 19 points and grabbing eight boards.

USF was also paced by senior walk-on Brian Graham, who had a career-high 10 points, tied a career-high five rebounds and dished out three assists.

“Again, I can’t say enough about Brian’s effort tonight, and what he’s done since he’s begun playing,” McCullum said. “It’s unfair what we had asked him to do. We threw him into situations that were far greater than what he imagined.”

The Bulls will now look to avenge their Jan. 31 loss against Houston, as they travel to Texas Saturday for a matchup against the Cougars.

“We have to rebound better, take care of the basketball better and go there and swing away,” McCullum said. “I told the guys the next three games are extremely important that we find a way to get two out of the next three. We are playing teams that we are contending with to make to the C-USA Tournament.”