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Bulls turn green in the face, fall to Cougars for second time this season

UH 68, USF 50

Houston (16-10, 7-5 C-USA) wasn’t the one with the problem Wednesday night, as for the second time this season, the Cougars beat the USF men’s basketball (10-13, 3-9 C-USA) team 68-50 at Hofheinz Pavilion.

The Bulls had difficulty keeping Houston’s three guards in check, as Andre Owens, Lanny Smith and Brian Latham not only took 40 of the Cougar’s 53 shots, but totalled 50 of the 68 points between them, with Owens scoring 20, Smith netting 16 and Latham adding 14. Houston was able to shoot 41 percent from the field and 65 percent from the free-throw line.

USF, with a majority of the players swapping the flu for the past week, committed 22 turnovers, while Houston only had 13. In the second half, Brian Swift was said to have vomited over by the Bulls’ bench at the start of the second half, but was still able to score eight.

Terrence Leather led the Bulls, with another double-double on the season, as he scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds. Marlyn Bryant had significant playing time as usual, but only notched eight points for himself.

The Bulls were overwhelmed again, as they were on Jan. 22 when Houston beat them 62-50 in the Sun Dome. But the Cougars have been tough at home all season long, posting a 12-2 record at Hofheinz Pavilion, including a 70-67 win on Jan. 5 over No. 12 Louisville.

Despite his team being sick and weary from traveling, coach Robert McCullum knows exactly what USF’s problem was in this C-USA game.

“Turnovers is what sort of set the tone for (Houston), if you will,” McCullum said to WTBN 570 AM’s post-game radio show. “Houston didn’t do anything to surprise us, nothing that we didn’t expect them to do. They’re very aggressive. They were able to take the ball out of Brian’s hands.

“But even when they didn’t do that, we threw the ball away like it was a hot potato, like we didn’t want it. We turned the ball over 12 times in the first half and 19 of their points came off of all those turnovers. That was the ball game there.”

Despite shooting better than Houston from field-goal range with 45 percent, USF struggled with its three-point attempts, as the team went 3-for-10 and freshman guard Collin Dennis hit two three-pointers.

With Swift’s defense hampered by his physical illness in the second half, the Bulls’ team defense faltered and allowed Houston’s three guards — Owens, Latham and Smith — to shoot 16-of-40 among the senior, the junior and the sophomore, respectively.

“They are a very athletic team,” McCullum said. “They have (those) three guards that can really score the basketball, they can really defend, and we were limited with our ball handling. Brian Swift is our sole ball handler and teams know that.

“Even when we did have the ball in scoring position, we’d turn it over. I’m not one for rationalizing or making excuses, but Houston played too well on defense.”

Though Swift was visibly sick for most of the game and only had one three-pointer on three attempts, McCullum would not lay any blame on his senior point guard for his illness or lack of production on the court.

“I’m going to defend him. This was not a typical Brian night because he found the hoop all week, but this was not a typical Brian Swift night.”