St. Louis 55, USF 47
After the Bulls finished warming up before their game versus St. Louis on Wednesday, coach Robert McCullum sensed something was wrong.
“I called all the guys together, and nobody said a word,” McCullum said. “There was no chat, there was no talk, or none of the things you usually see.”
It seemed the only thing tighter than the Bulls’ lips was St. Louis’ defense, as it held the Bulls to a 29.4 shooting percentage and USF went on to lose 55-47 in front of a crowd of 2,972 at the Sun Dome.
The Billikens, who snapped a four-game losing streak, allow opponents an average of 59.4 points a game, tops in Conference USA.
USF missed 22 of 25 shots in the first half (12 percent) and finished the half with a season-low 12 points.
The Bulls played better in the second half — knocking down 46.2 percent of their shots — to outscore St. Louis 35-29.
The Billikens (6-16, 4-6 C-USA) kept USF in the game by committing 20 turnovers and the Bulls shaved the lead to five with Brian Swift’s lay-up with 1:17 left. But after an untimely foul on the Billikens’ next possession, USF never got closer.
“We dug ourselves too big a hole,” Swift said. “And we couldn’t get out of it.”
McCullum said he was puzzled by the team’s performance, as USF was coming off a two-game winning streak.
“There was so much riding on the outcome of this game,” McCullum said. “It just didn’t seem like it was there.”
The Bulls finished in last place last season in the conference and were picked to finish last this season.
“We should come out hungrier than anybody,” freshman guard Collin Dennis said. “We should come out wanting to prove that we’re not the worst team in the league.”
Before the game, the Bulls had aspirations of finishing in the middle of the C-USA standings and figured they were looking at a decent seed for the C-USA tournament.
“Tonight was another setback,” Swift said.
USF’s leading scorer, Terrence Leather, who missed practice on Monday and Tuesday with flu symptoms, missed all five of his field goal attempts and finished with three points.
Swift was the only Bulls player to finish in double figures, scoring 21 points on 6 of 22 shooting.
“It just came down to making shots,” Swift said. “And we didn’t do that tonight.
“I don’t think we came to play at all tonight.”
Swift wasn’t the only one to think so.
“We just kind of moped around,” McCullum said.