Blown down in the Windy City
The Bulls have shown an ability to play with Conference USA’s best teams this season.
They just have yet to play better.
With previous close losses to Louisville, Marquette, Memphis and UAB, the USF men’s basketball team (11-14, 4-10 C-USA) played hard but fell to DePaul 76-69 Tuesday at Allstate Arena in Chicago.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” coach Robert McCullum said on WTBN 910’s post-game show. “I thought DePaul was just ripe to be beaten tonight. We just didn’t put forth the effort that was necessary.”
A 13-0 Blue Demon run in the first half spelled doom for the Bulls, who, after being down 11 at halftime, never got closer than six in the second half.
USF was outrebounded 39-32, but more notably, allowed DePaul 15 offensive rebounds that translated to numerous second-chance opportunities.
DePaul (18-7, 9-4 C-USA) also got to the free-throw line 30 times, getting 17 more chances than the Bulls.
“We didn’t do enough to give ourselves a chance to win,” McCullum said.
The Bulls’ usual suspects showed up, as guard Brian Swift was 9-of-15 from the floor and scored 26 points to lead all players, while forward Terrence Leather had 18 points and 15 rebounds.
But the Bulls were able to keep it close with help from others.
Center Solomon Jones dropped in 11 points to go along with eight rebounds and sophomore guard Marius Prekevicius scored eight points before leaving with a knee injury in the second half.
Prekevicius replaced regular starter freshman Collin Dennis, who did not play because he violated team rules, according to McCullum.
The Bulls cut the lead down to eight after a Leather steal and dunk with 1:30 to go, but a foul on the impending inbounds play put DePaul sharp-shooter Drake Diener on the free-throw line and USF never seriously threatened again.
Diener shot 7 of 10 from the field and finished with a team-high 19 points for the Blue Demons, who snapped a two-game skid.
“We gave Diener far too many open looks,” McCullum said.
The Bulls played solid defense, holding DePaul to 39 percent shooting for the game. But according to McCullum, that didn’t matter.
“They’d miss a shot and they would be right there to get the offensive rebound,” he said. “It seems like that occurred time and time again.”