The men’s basketball team was hoping to make history Wednesday as it traveled to face Notre Dame for the first time ever, and it succeeded.
The Bulls didn’t win their first Big East game, but they did set a new school record with their 13th consecutive loss.
All season USF (6-18, 0-11) has played its opponents closely, having several games go down to the last second. But in its 62-55 loss to the Fighting Irish (12-10, 3-8), the Bulls, who started the game by making five of their first seven field goals, faded early as Notre Dame went on an 18-2 run to put the game out of USF’s reach.
“Anytime you allow a team to go on a run like that it’s significant. It’s kind of a back breaker,” said coach Robert McCullum, who’s Bulls trailed 31-19 at halftime. “I thought we were very fortunate to have only been down 12 points at halftime because of a run like that.”
Senior guard James Holmes, who led USF with 18 points, also thought the Bulls’ first-half collapse was crucial.
“It was really tough,” Holmes said. “We were playing on our way. It’s just hard to come back when you’re down, especially so early. They just took the momentum into halftime, and we can’t afford to be playing (from behind).”
Despite the loss, senior center Solomon Jones and junior forward McHugh Mattis both had double-doubles and now have a combined 18.
Mattis, who finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, was frustrated after the game, which was USF’s 11th Big East loss.
“Me and Solomon, as long as we go to the boards and just play hard and stay out of foul trouble along with James, (Melvin) Buckley and (Chris) Capko, I think we can pull some games out,” Mattis said. “We’ve just got to play together as a team and play harder.”
Jones earned his 11th double-double on the season, but he wasn’t satisfied with his 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“I can’t praise myself for a double-double (and) not getting the win. It really doesn’t mean anything until we get the victory,” Jones said
Buckley, who had averaged 20.3 points in the previous three games, was held to five as he shot 2-for-13 from the field.
“Players are not going to have great shooting nights every game. We’re a better team when both (Buckley) and James shoot the ball well from the perimeter and Solomon Jones has a solid low-post presence,” McCullum said. “When we don’t have all three of them clicking offensively on the same night, it’s going to be more difficult.”
With five games left on the schedule, McCullum still believes that the Bulls will win a Big East game before the season ends.
“I think our guys have done a great job of bouncing back, putting losses behind them,” he said, “and I’m confident that they’ll continue to approach the next game that way.”