Bulls’ poor shooting leads to 62-50 loss to Cougars; USF’s fourth straight

The USF men’s basketball team’s chances of making the Conference USA tournament took a hit with a 62-50 loss to Houston at the Sun Dome on Saturday.

The Bulls (8-8, 1-4 C-USA) looked uncharacteristically flat and unexciting as they fell to .500 for the first time this season.

“Obviously, this is the lowest point of the season for us this year in terms of performance,” coach Robert McCullum said. “This was clearly, from an effort standpoint, our worst effort of the year.”

USF committed 17 turnovers and missed 11 of its final 13 shots as the Cougars (12-7, 3-2 C-USA) pulled away to snap their four-game losing streak.

The 11th-place Bulls, who have now lost four straight conference games, are one of three C-USA teams with just one win. USF must finish at least 12th place to make the C-USA tournament in March.

“We just didn’t lose a basketball game,” forward Terrence Leather said. “We lost fans. That was an embarrassment. For me, and all of my teammates, to all our fans, we are sorry for that.

“It’s tough times right now, no smiles on my face. It’s not fun and games right now.”

The Bulls trailed for most of the contest and were out rebounded 38-31 by the Tigers, who are C-USA’s worst team in rebounding.

“I don’t know what to attribute (the lack of effort) to,” McCullum said. “When it’s all said and done, we know we can be satisfied with the effort that we gave, but that wasn’t the case today.”

Houston was led by guard’s Lanny Smith and Andre Owens, who scored 16 and 15 points, respectively. Smith was 6 for 8 from the field and also had a team-high four assists.

“He’s a takeover player,” Houston coach Tom Penders said.

Marius Prekevicius, who returned a week early from a torn meniscus in his left knee, sparked USF with two three pointers early in the first half. The Bulls then went ice cold and missed their last 14 three-point attempts and finished 2 for 19 on the game.

“We have to make shots,” McCullum said. “When we shoot as poorly as we did today, we’re not going to beat anybody.”

Leather tied the game at 37 with 13 minutes to go, but the Bulls, plagued by turnovers and bricks, never threatened again.

“For the first time all year, we clearly lost our poise,” McCullum said. “We didn’t play together, we didn’t trust each other the way we have, and when those things happen it’s going to be very difficult to win.”

Team leaders Leather and Brian Swift combined for 20 points. Leather’s 10-point tally was his lowest of the season.

“I put the loss on my shoulders, my team depends on me,” Leather said.

Despite his frustration, Leather remained optimistic.

“We’ll get better, regardless,” Leather said. “One thing I can say, we are going to make the conference tournament.”