The men’s basketball team extended its losing streak to nine Tuesday night, as the Bulls fell to Cincinnati (15-7, 4-4) in a game that was closer than the scoreboard showed.
USF (6-14, 0-7) lost 73-60 after leading for nearly the entire first half, but once again gave up the lead in the second half.
“The first half we came out and we played aggressive; we played hard. Second half is just a different story,” said Melvin Buckley, who scored 11 points in the loss.
USF went into the locker room with a 32-28 lead and its first Big East victory in sight, but a lack of rebounds in the second half led to an 18-5 Bearcats run.
“They just rebounded the ball. They attacked the offensive boards,” Buckley said.
Collin Dennis, who was celebrating his 20th birthday, scored a season-high 10 points and notched five assists, but it wasn’t enough for him to get a Big East victory as a birthday present.
“I wanted it so bad – you don’t even understand,” Dennis said. “That’s why I think I got stupid fouls. I was playing way too aggressive because I wanted to win on my birthday.”
The Bulls have kept games close all season, but have consistently blown leads in the second half.
“I think we just started playing, you know, too conservative,” said Dennis, who also stated he thought the team may have lost because they opened the second half by playing to not lose rather than to win.
“In the second half, we started giving up so many offensive boards; they were getting second shots. We were being out hustled. It’s just little things that we weren’t doing in the second half that made us lose it,” Dennis said.
Senior Solomon Jones led the Bulls with 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocks and fellow senior James Holmes added 12 points and nine rebounds, but it wasn’t enough for USF, which hasn’t won a game since beating Loyola Marymount on Dec. 23.
For the first time all season, all five of USF’s starters were in double figures, but Cincinnati had four starters score at least 12 points with Cedric McGowan and Jihad Muhammad scoring 18 each.
Tuesday’s loss was tough to swallow for the Bulls, as was the loss to Seton Hall, a game in which USF blew a 13-point lead.
“I think Seton Hall was probably worse because we had a greater lead late, and it seemed like we just broke down in that one so bad,” Dennis said. “They both hurt, but I think the one at Seton Hall hurt more.”
But to players like Buckley, it doesn’t matter if it’s a close game or not.
“It’s all the same,” Buckley said. “It’s a game: We had a lead, we lost the lead, we lose the game.”